Poems By Jill Rivera
I spend my days buttoning words
into meanings stiff as oxford cloth.
Starch and comb, slick
stray thoughts behind an ear.
I am proud of the way they look
people in the eyes and say just
what they mean. I drive them
where they need to go, watchful as they step
predictably from backseat to sidewalk, each
clutching a single idea to her breast
like a lily. I protect them from the others,
loitering behind buildings, smoking
around corners, words
with rough origins and ambiguous
intentions, offering rides I know
are too hard to resist, rides you take
just to feel power thrumming between your thighs,
just for the noise, for the chance
to snake your arm around a stranger
and go where he takes you.
Her pale face registers the grave
responsibility she’s been given.
She is young, twenty at most,
awash with eerie light. Surrounded
by attendants in blue, she gazes
apprehensively at the child,
cradles him as he is fed
through a tube in his throat.
His skin is nearly translucent,
too thin, as if at any moment
the spirit will escape. Free
of the incubator, he’s not yet trusted
without a snare of tubes and wires,
filling and emptying reluctant lungs.
Another machine stands sentry
behind his crib, monitoring the ethereal
heart. A yellow knit cap
encircles his head.
Other babies sleep or cry,
mouths open like birds, waiting.
Shut tight in their new, cramped
universe, day and night created
by fluorescent bulbs. A choir of charts
and wristbands incants the names:
Christ of the ventilator. Christ
of the IV. Christ of the still-beating heart.
Swallowing the Hook
My husband's thick fingers thread delicate
line, coax a flailing worm onto the hook
with the same care they curled last night
around my breast. He eases
the pole backward, flings the tip
away. Lazy, cracking peanut shells
in my teeth, I watch him cast perfect
spells. When the line pulls taut he plays
it, unhurried. The pole arches its back,
then collapses as he reels in, arching
and collapsing until the fish dangles
at the end of his line, gaping
only for a second before he cuts it loose.
He nudges it away with his foot
but the fish keeps floating back.
Later we'll make love again, my face in his neck
smelling fish and campfire smoke, him
inside me, wet and gasping,
my teeth piercing his lip.
Jill Rivera Greene received an MFA from Colorado State
University in 1999. She recently returned to poetry after a long
hiatus, during which she worked as a professional writer/editor
and had two children. She is currently living in Everett,
Washington, where she work out of her home as a project manager
for a DC-area consulting company. Her poems and translations
have appeared in Calyx, Willow Spring, Permafrost, Poetry
Northwest, and other journals.