Beeder | Rivera
Ancient Roman Bones Reveal Malaria: A Love Song
How like a hive, his body−so busy with rigor,
with languor & sweats: his spleen my arena,
his spine my near vicus, encampment. Ague
as opiate: I have bequeathed him bright visions
of wings, my crepuscule sulks, a fever & tremor,
a ribcage too meager to scaffold a temple
or cistern of piss. Citizens, I’ll never leave him−
not while forests are cleared by your hunger
for villas, for mainmasts, flagpoles & bonfires.
We’ll wax as we dwindle, gut-swollen and rank.
What will be left for the Gauls? A cattail garden.
Shards & a damp palm’s mark on the parchment.
Reading “Quilla” reminded of the talent that so impressed me years ago when Sara Rivera was my student at UNM―especially the sharp and sometimes disturbing images, like the blood spot in this poem that “transforms, crawls away on red wire legs.” What I find ultimately most wonderful about Rivera’s new poem, however, is how far it goes, in the best sense: while exploring the story of an Incan deity―Mama Quilla, protector of women and beloved of a fox― it becomes at once a richly layered meditation on body/soul, a subtle ars poetica, and a lament for all that we cannot or can no longer touch: “I knew/you, I wish I knew you.”
Sara Daniele Rivera
A silver-blue star at the bottom of a glass. A blood spot:
something shed from the body
transforms, crawls away on red wire legs. A dark stain
blossoms on your face, tunnels inward and becomes
a blankness in your brain. Border between tonalities
of skin. I press your body to
my face mid-ascension, reasoning we were never human,
always foxes holding too hard to our sources
of protection. Darkening can be a trace of love. In a dust storm
darkening can be a loss of
dimensionality. In the before of our family
twin sisters died, one at birth the other
something to do with an earthquake. Nameless halves of a swept unit.
Salt left mid-air. Silver and silver and silver
the teardrops flood their containment. I skip stones at the edge
of Callao, sling language across the blue: I knew
you, I wish I knew you. A plane of water dazes
after a stone has sunk.
I have begged the animal inside me to release
its captive light. I have hurled this
toward you out of silence, attempting contact
with what I will never
touch. A body lodged
behind an eclipse.
Sara Daniele Rivera is a Cuban-Peruvian American artist, writer, translator, and educator. Her poetry and fiction use both speculative and realist lenses to explore themes of migration, memory, and the liminal spaces between language and silence. She is the co-translator of The Blinding Star: Selected Poems of Blanca Varela (Tolsun Books, 2021). Her debut book of poetry, The Blue Mimes, won the Academy of American Poets First Book Award andwill be published by Graywolf Press in 2024.