I was surprised in writing the following poems by the quality of the silence that surrounds the fragmentation of the sentence, even in the absence of lineation. The form elicits a certain density where the words assemble new possibilities that surprise and challenge me. In writing it’s the sound that draws me forward, one word leads to the next. The form permits these shifts and layers. How quickly words elicit each other and tend toward narration, but then just as quickly that tendency is undercut by some new word. At times I have to retrace my steps if I’m letting myself become too dramatic. There is a lot of pulling back that has to happen for the unexpected to emerge.
Father throws the child in the water—perhaps another translation is needed? Swallowed water then not wine. There is a difference between representation and what washes away. I was reminded of the connection between us, water, taking the water in, & being saved by the god with rain in his hair. Remind me of who we were when we left the swimming pool. You that father so sure of yourself, and me ashamed, flooded, falling into rules and how I had failed this first test. Ferocity turned inward, and the child became fluent in watchfulness.
Railings on Either Side
I wanted to wrap my heart around yours, watched your every move, noticed where your eyes went. You the original man, naked, the hero. Her father eyed the skinny blond with a cigarette and the waitress’ bosom. In a room full of furniture the girl quietly headed toward his pile of Playboys. What could she learn there? Had I miscalculated how to arrive? I fancied myself a poet to see if your eyes would follow the crisis on the roadside. I quake ache to think I narrowly missed being Robinson Crusoe. I disappeared in the glove compartment.
How to Name
Those images of naked friends and others sent me back to a fragmented narration. He didn’t end up being a conduit, just ate everything in his way. The place where you write your name, I kept secret. I wanted something for myself and ended up in a blind cadence between two buildings. Checkmate, he said. I could chose to lose or end up on the other side of the room. Crossed the poem turned inside out. Your woman called me “Bitch” and I fell into a recumbent position that I’m still trying to free myself from. New memories buried old ones. The book is how I am bound.
Eléna Rivera is the author of several poetry collections, including Arrangements (Aquifer Books, 2022), Epic Series (Shearsman Books, 2020), Scaffolding (Princeton University Press, 2017), and The Perforated Map (Shearsman Books, 2011). She received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Translation and was a recent recipient of poetry fellowships from MacDowell (2020), Trelex Paris Poetry Residency (2019) and the SHOEN Foundation (2016).