Published on Academy of American Poets (

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


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 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, 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.

Date Published: 2018-08-28

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