Mundo Rivera



Behind this family portrait, their panting thrust of palms

against the gate. Our stifled yelp captures & congests the

Joaquins, Glorias, Vitíns into limb-snapping poses. Key

to our sympathy is hidden under the rug made out of their

hair. Smile only when we put the hoods over you. Wail into

the Polaroid; do not shake. Or blow it bidding kisses. Just

place the portrait on the broad-edged table for us, the child-

interrogators, to reminisce, bite our clenched hearts over, 

triumph over this weakness. & torture these secret agents

of the past until they break, sing like canaries & cry Tio!

Luis Angel, Eggie, Ana Lu’ & Fonsa. Their ghosts flutter

when it’s most peaceful; they nest, egg & hatch innocent

memories in us, the child-mourners, for our attention. But,

the others keep banging their skulls away against the bars,

yowling legacies, telling boogie-man myths till we, child-

executioners, crawl from under the skin to resume justified

unconventional methods of torture: 1. Days of being spoon-

fed & gagged in the school cafeteria in front of friends, sprint

them head first into the future they don’t even know, believe 

is approaching 2.Wrench the finger nails, one belt-lashing

at a time in front of the girls 3.Water-board & test the bully

4. Shock & drug child-boredoms. 5. We, the children, write

a few poems. Throw them onto the floor of the portrait so

the monsters fight over them, tear apart, feed back.   



Other Side (Fonsa’s Outtakes)

When I contemplate the much

discoursed phenomenon of

what’s behind closed doors,

I think about demons hastily

put together, leaking plans

through the hinges. Theory is

they stage a performance

for the now free, yet quizzical

souls that play. I’m an audience

inductee after the closing

ceremonies. The curtains are

ruffled. When they part, there is

still nothing to see: another

dream about her bulleted

by fog. But, sometimes she is

almost visible. If I smudge my

eyes madly enough. If I push

slowly against the door

to her bedroom. There, buried

under the pillows, her mouth

emerges webbed by spit.

I strain to listen against

the door creaking. But,

the many errands to hug

the wheelchair, kiss the

flesh of her propped up,

aging countenance. Retrieve

the right medication from the

bed-rest file, rigid like first-time

soldiers, are all crashed in a faraway

wilderness. No sound out in the open.

Half-shadow of her chanclas claim

the threshold brave men don’t want

to deal with. From the sidelines of death,

the first scene: at the senior citizen

home, her lungs turn inward, & Ma

fetches buckets of air telepathically

across the street. Second scene: her

signature threaded bata, high arc of

white mane. At intermission,   

grave diggers hustle their shovels,

dirtying us alive with more super-

natural things marching into us,

bypassing checkpoints

into our comfort zone of hard-headed

pragmatism. Final scene: the night

of her lifebreak, we huddle en la

sala with kicked-up dust in our teeth

dissolving in commiseration, when

she calls us. Or was it a demon

hastily put together to stage

a play on our souls, coercing our

belief to suspend—Welo: Esa e’

Fonsa llamando. Ma: Ella siempre

llamaba y pue’corgaba cuando

se cansaba. El  teléfono en la mano.

Esa e’ Mami—Pa: ¡Deja eso coño!

When I contemplate the much

discoursed phenomenon of

what’s behind closed doors,

sometimes it’s almost visible

that there is no such thing as

supernatural fanaticism

being irrationale. Just the knock

of her clinging reign on earth.          

The liberty of the dead to travel

& remind us.

2 Poems


MUNDO RIVERA is a writer born and raised in El Barrio. He has published articles in Urban Latino magazine and has a poem in the 2008 fourth issue of Palabra, a Chicano and Latino literary journal based in Los Angeles. He is a 2-time regional workshop participant at Cave Canem and has attended artist-in-residence programs at Fundación Valparaiso in Mojacar, España and La Napoule Art Foundation near Cannes. He is working on a book of poems titled “Breaking El Cuco” and a novel loosely based on the New York City blackout of 1977. He is currently an Instructional coach at ACCIÓN Academy, a middle school where students are empowered to connect a range of local and global topics to the Bronx and engage in community action. Mundo also likes his bistec encebolla’o, arro’ con habichuela rosada, una ensalada de aguate, y tostone’ con un chin de ajo.