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Raquel Salas Rivera

Raquel Salas Rivera was born in Puerto Rico and grew up there and in the United States. He received a BA from the Universidad de Puerto Rico and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Rivera is the author of several collections of poetry, including antes que isla es volcán/ before island is volcano (Beacon Press, forthcoming 2022); x/ex/exis (poemas para la nación) (poems for the nation) Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2020), which was selected by Alberto Ríos for the 2018 Ambroggio Prizewhile they sleep (under the bed is another country) (Birds, LLC, 2019), which was longlisted for the 2020 PEN America Open Book Award and was a finalist for CLMP’s 2020 Firecracker Award; and lo terciario/the tertiary (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2018), which received the 2019 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry and was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry.

Rivera also authored 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 (Anomalous Press, 2019), a collection of contemporary Puerto Rican poets.

In 2019, Rivera was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow and served as the 2018–2019 poet laureate of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He now writes and teaches in Puerto Rico.

By This Poet

6

when you tie rope and ribbon

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
or until we have no need
to unleash forces
or unarm states


cuando amarras soga y cinta

para oscar lópez rivera

creas dos nudos
para que puedan subir o bajar
años y nombres

uniendo hebras gruesas y finas
simplicidades y opacidades
dialécticas tensas y resueltas

tus ojos son puños cerrados
que guían tus manos
para que la cinta dure siglos
o hasta que no haya necesidad
de desatar fuerzas
y desarmar estados

in peñuelas they knock down activists’ doors

                                        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 puertas de activistas

 

                                        para nina droz franco
arrastran
                 arrestan
                                asumimos lo peor

pero nina quema hoyos en el aire
y somos también cenizas
de otro fuego

notes on the seasons

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 wants us? every time you think these questions aren’t the same, you recognize that you never met me, despite the i’ve seen you before and somewhere.

if i’m going to explore my nationality, i have to be recognizable. this is what everyone knows. in fact, if i’m not recognizable, it’s as if i had no nation.

i wrote the following in a letter to the lions of the mayagüez zoo:

i know that right now you are lions, and you’ve spent a lot of time in the heat, but when you become snakes, no fence will be able to contain you. they’ll have to put you in a glass cage. they call this cage a fish tank. they’ll decorate the cage with rocks. you’ll no longer be able to roar. but don’t worry, when you become spiders, you’ll be able to leave the fish tank. you’ll climb up to the roof. maybe it’ll take you many weeks to find a window, but in the interim, you’ll eat mosquitos, since these are abundant, despite the aromatic candles.

i wrote them this letter because i know what it’s like to wait for transmogrification.

i wrote them this letter because i know what it’s like to wait for transmogrification in captivity.

outside of the fish tank, there is a room. outside of the room, there is a zoo. outside of the zoo, there is a hometown. outside of the hometown, there is a colony. outside of the colony, there is an empire. outside of the empire, there is the king of seasons. if you kill the king, you kill the game.


notas sobre las temporadas

en el español no nos damos naturalmente. las temporadas sirven para diferenciarnos de las personas naturales. cuando no hay temporada, digamos, cuando somos de un país caribeño, mejor, cuando somos de un territorio, no se nos permite usar la x, excepto para la palabra xilófono, ¿porque quién usa xilófono? ¿y quién nos quiere? cada vez que piensas que estas preguntas no son la misma, reconoces que nunca me conociste, a pesar del te he visto antes y de alguna parte.

si voy a explorar mi nacionalidad, tengo que ser reconocible. eso lo saben todos. de hecho, si no me reconoces, es como si no tuviera nación.

le escribí lo siguiente en una carta a los leones del zoológico de mayagüez:

sé que, en estos momentos, son leones, y llevan mucho tiempo en el calor, pero, cuando sean culebras, no habrá verja que los contenga. tendrán que ponerlos en una jaula de cristal. a esta jaula le llaman pecera. decorarán la jaula con piedras. ya no podrán rugir. pero tranquilos, que cuando sean arañas podrán salir de la pecera. subirán hasta un techo. quizás les tomé varias semanas encontrar la ventana, pero en el interín, comerán mosquitos, pues estos abundan, a pesar de las velas aromáticas.

les escribí esta carta porque sé lo que es esperar la transmogrificación.

les escribí esta carta porque sé lo que es esperar la transmogrificación en cautiverio.

fuera de la pecera, hay un cuarto. fuera del cuarto, hay un zoológico. fuera del zoológico, hay una pueblo natalicio. fuera del pueblo natalicio, hay una colonia. fuera de la colonia, hay un imperio. fuera del imperio, existe el rey de las temporadas. si matas el rey, matas el juego.