poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poets.org on October 2, 2018.

About this poet

Raquel Salas Rivera was born in Puerto Rico and grew up there and in the United States. Rivera is the author of x/ex/exis (poemas para la nación) (poems for the nation), which won the 2018 Ambroggio Prize and is forthcoming from Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe in 2019. Rivera is also the author of lo terciario/the tertiary (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2018), which was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry, as well as tierra intermitente (Ediciones Alayubia, 2017) and Caneca de anhelos turbios (Editora Educación Emergente, 2011), both of which were published in Puerto Rico. Rivera is co-editor of Puerto Rico en mi corazón, a collection of bilingual broadsides of contemporary Puerto Rican poets. They currently serve as the 2018–2019 poet laureate of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they live.

in puerto rico we inherit your wars

maldita sea we fight them and what did you give us

under the church in mayagüez there are taíno bones
the father knows it
all the fathers

he said take this ribbon and measure the church dimensions
tell me if it's worth
destroying faith for some bones

what i saw when i walked around with my ribbon
were old women praying to papito dios
with tears of faith for his creatures
malformed by desire
            airs of bettering what isn't enough
i saw the faces of saints some sweet and others
as arbitrary as abstinence 
more than anything i saw the gold the cruelty

i went back to the father after covering the church
with the ribbon the scene of a crime
and bendito i didn't ask for forgiveness
nor could i explain
            the newfound hate


en puerto rico heredamos tus guerras

maldita sea las peleamos y qué nos diste

debajo de la iglesia de mayagüez hay huesos de taíno
y el padre lo sabe
todos los padres

dijo toma la cinta y mide las dimensiones de la iglesia
dime si vale la pena
por unos huesos destruir la fe

lo que vi cuando caminaba con mi cinta
eran viejitas sentadas rezándole a papito dios
con lágrimas de fe por sus criaturas
malformadas por el deseo
                       aires de mejorar lo que no basta
vi las caras de santos algunos dulces y otros
tan abitrarios como la abstinencia
más que todo vi el oro la crueldad

volví al padre tras cubrir la iglesia con la cinta
la escena de una crimen
y bendito no le pedí perdón
ni pude explicarle 
            el odio nuevo

From x/ex/exis (poemas para la nación) (poems for the nation). Copyright ©  2018 by Raquel Salas Rivera. Used with the permission of Bilingual Press.

From x/ex/exis (poemas para la nación) (poems for the nation). Copyright ©  2018 by Raquel Salas Rivera. Used with the permission of Bilingual Press.

Raquel Salas Rivers

Raquel Salas Rivera

Raquel Salas Rivera is the author of x/ex/exis (poemas para la nación) (poems for the nation), which won the 2018 Ambroggio Prize.

by this poet

poem

for oscar lópez rivera

you make two knots
so that years and names
can climb up or down

uniting thick and thin threads
simplicities and opacities
tense and resolved dialectics

your eyes are closed fists
that guide your hands
so the ribbon may last centuries

2
poem

                                        for nina droz franco
drag
                 arrest
                                we assume the worst

but nina burns holes in the air
and we are also ashes
of another fire


en peñuelas tumban

2
poem

in spanish, we don’t naturally occur. the seasons differentiate us from natural people. when there are no seasons, let’s say, when we are a caribbean country, better yet, when we are a territory, we aren’t allowed to use the x, except for the word xylophone, because who uses a xylophone? and who