W.M. Rivera

W.M. Rivera has a new book titled Buried in the Mind’s Backyard (Brickhouse Books -- also available at Itascabooks.com and Amazon.com). Born in New Orleans, he began publishing poetry in the 1950s. His early poetry appeared under the names William Rivera and William McLeod Rivera in The Nation, Prairie Schooner, the Kenyon Review and the New Laurel Review among other publications. Recent poems have appeared in the California Quarterly, Gargoyle, Ghazal, and Broome Review. A first book of his poetry was published in 1960 titled, The End of Legend’s String, illustrated by Mexican artist, José Luis Cuevas. His new book, Buried in the Mind’s Backyard, was published by Brickhouse Books in 2011, with a cover print by Miguel Condé, one of Spain’s prominent artists. Rivera’s professional activities in agricultural development have taken him to more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Retired from the University of Maryland, he is putting together his next collection of poetry under the title The You that’s Left.

Matchets and Diamonds

Returned from the heart-shaped continent,

clocking time, Africans with PhDs taxi forth.*


Those who have crossed and live, look

back, let go traditions for the modern grab.

Their ‘Africa-Independent’ is overrun;

its cities spiked with poverty, rotten

profiteers, jobless youth, the reek of rhetoric…

Banks’ corrupted leaders who front what’s rank.


Neither here nor there, the next wave swims

or sinks, seeks shore adrift in uninviting

harbors, stands out in hurried streets,

their tribal scars exposed still raw, the deep indented

lines of red and blue-black violets; their dark-blood

memories of machets and diamonds.






*African immigrants to the United States are more highly educated than any other native-born ethnic group including white Americans.  In 2000, some 48.9 percent of all African immigrants held a college diploma. This is slightly more than the percentage of Asian immigrants to the United States, nearly double the rate for native-born white Americans, and nearly four times the rate for native-born African Americans[1]. See also Reuters article on Africa’s brain drain[2]


photo by: jared

Blank Slate

I hate to see that evening Sun bite down
one ruler for another, one America
for the next, the race starts over, fresh
forgetfulness.   Blank slate.

Firms fix to win
unless the grid browns down, turns black;
contender nations bud; the rush is on,
the riders high and winning’s all.

Overawed tots pop and thrive, sugar their thighs.
Hetty Greens titivate on Corporate War.
What fun!  And never-failure banks fleece the sky
while teeny-show-me-yours repeat cock-sure clichés.

And they’re off!  Pristine, the chargers gallop
bigger than grand – loser nags steered underground.

Photo by flickr user mheisel

The Logic of Rot

“There are people who ignore Zambia’s plight. And there are  people who try to take advantage of the situation.”
—Sharon Fabian, Drought in Zambia



Behold Lusaka! And me in situ
come to appraise the obvious: storage
in open air; production for waste:

hundreds of ninety-kilo bags of maize
bursting at the seams: Sun-scorched
on top, steaming wet from rains underneath,
kernels for fungi and rats. Who cares?

Decay validates the extra cash from loans
to buy less-sweeter maize from richer worlds.
Who sees, sees double, my import and theirs.
Don’t count on resolve to solve iniquity.

Goodbye to what I know won’t help …
The logic of rot inexorably rules
shady dream castles in concrete.

photo by:


From Washington, DC to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, for an agricultural development conference, held at the Golden Horse Casino Hotel, May, 2007.

I don’t mean to fly off the handle but
flying off…all the way to Pietermaritzburg,
conferencing in KwaZulu-land, and
there I was, driven past the hotel spikes
stuck up like some teenage hair-do,
the Golden Horse Casino Hotel venue
for poverty-reduction talk!—the foyer packed
with lottery dreaming seniors spinning slots.

My own motive’s not far off, whirling
words around an elegant Σ of squares
the total’s still the lust to win.  Golden
geese fly over the shanty poor, dark
horses hobbled in arrears.  High’s up;
now’s back; the distance done: my jackpot speech.


Dressing the rich in rags is haute couture.
The chic wear slogans–rouge their eyes with kohl.
Meanwhile the ‘underprivileged’ barely endure.
Nobody goes broke working for the poor.

* I dedicate this poem to Wang An-Shi (1021–1086), the Chinese statesman who lived during the Sung dynasty when the state was impoverished by the need to pay tributes to invading barbarians. As a result radical reforms were demanded.  Wang An-shi, a poet and writer as well as a statesman, developed a program of far-reaching reforms. He abolished tax immunities of big landowners, ended forced labor on public works in favor of money payment, and instituted the buying and selling of essentials by the state.  These reforms were deliberately sabotaged by the civil servants and he was compelled to resign in 1076.