a journey complete
with all due appreciation and respect for Robert Frost

the old man travels
back again

to where those two roads
diverge in that yellow wood

one road before him
still well traveled

the other
still less so

though his inclination is to again
follow the one less trodden

he instead steps softly
through the undergrowth

and weaving his way
between the trees

comes upon a clearing
of fragrant wild flowers

the sweet aroma
and softness of the ground

enticing him to lie down
close his eyes

and under the seeping
warmth of the sun

to soon fall
into that deep sweet serene sleep

that comes from promises kept
and a journey complete

yes promises kept
and a journey complete

windows and dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

—Langston Hughes

there’s this thing about windows
I guess it’s that early morning

inclination of light
through the windowpanes

those sharp edged rays
slicing and revealing

slivers of our dreams
lost in the dark

then there are the doors
the goings out of them

without a glance back
at those dreams left behind

watching us leave

with a wish we do not know
how to grant for our return

and of course
there are those walls

along with those ceilings and floors
those boundaries of mind

that capture and confine
our hopes and aspirations

but then again
there’s that light

that light through the windows
those waves of lucid beams

our abandoned dreams

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la cuesta de san miguel

he is heading up the hill overlooking the city
his hat to shield him from the sun
his bag slung over his shoulder
the sun bright on steep stone white steps
as he climbs higher and higher

he is looking for a quiet place
free from the incessant chatter of mind

he reaches a terrace with a bench by a ruin
and sits to catch his shorted breath
red and purple bougainvillea hanging from crumbling walls
a stirring of lizards among the rubble
a moist green shadow lurking behind a broken arch

he is searching for that aperture
through which shines the light that reveals

he continues his reach to the rounded top of the hill
tiny yellow flowers among sparkling jewels of broken glass
he passes the virgin mother offering her hand from a chapel niche
he looks up to her and begs for blessings
from angels he loves that have gone before him

he is striving to remove the filters of thought
to undress the mind of its cloaks

he reaches the very summit and stands on a rock
looks out upon the bustling peopled city far below him
the grey and purplish cobble stone streets and alleys
the overlapping terraces of terracotta roofs
the cathedral embracing the green city plaza

he is looking for a clearer vision
to dissolve the cataracts of mind that blur

he looks out through the sky to the distant horizon
and follows the flocks of birds on their morning flight
from their secret nightly refuge
among the thickets beside the reservoirs
back to the daily busyness of birds in the city

he is longing for truly in the moment being
to awaken from that persistent trance of time

he feels the cool morning tide of wind upon his face
and hears its rustling swirl in his ear
like the sound of a distant surfing sea
he breathes it in deeply and savors its fragrance
its nourishment shared with nearby spiny mesquite


have you noticed the trees
surrounding the house

leaning in unison
to the west

I guess
its the result

of their photosynthetic tracking
of the sun's daily trek

that gives them that
westward bent

or is it the whiplash effect
of the earth's

nine hundred miles per hour
eastward spin

coupled with that mysterious
downward pull of gravity

that even einstein
could not explain

or perhaps it may be
their daily evening ritual

bowing to their god
of the red setting sun

who knows for sure
the meanings of trees leanings

or for that matter
yours or mine

and what can explain
the upright and straight posture

of that lonely long leaf pine
you know the one

in the far field by the creek
that flows from west to east

love unexpected

the song of the lone winter wren
is crisp and quick

and we share its longing
for a reply

and within those
sorrow shaped silences

between its cries
our loneliness resides

as its calls
fall with white snow

to melt unheard on earth’s
blackened ice

but then love arrives again

like one of those
first days of spring

and being surprised

by the sheer
sheer whiteness

of the blossoms
on those pear trees

across the way
with their red

red leaves of fall
still fresh

in your memory
love unexpected

but arrives again
after all

free floating

free floating
molecules of dense early morning fog

condense and merge with those
of the placid liquid surface of the lake

as the bow of my canoe
slices through the thick mist

I rest my paddle across the gunnels
and stop to listen

to the fog muffled silence of dawns breaking
broken only by the creaking of the canoe

and sporadic surface slaps
of leaping fish

I glance back to see from where I launched
on the far shore

but I am unable to see
through the billowing opaque vapor

and for just a few moments
I am truly without bearings

knowing not of true north
south east nor west

an instant of panic
of being lost

but then
a sensation of liberation

of being untethered
from where I came

or from where I am bound
from origination and destination

just free floating
and basking in the sweet unknown

beyond the furthest strewn star

no sé en qué regiones del vasto infinito
nace la flor de la amistad
—Fernando Maqueo

the furthest strewn star
is a vast region
where there is no matter
and as such
no motion nor time
for each defines
the other

it is there
where the darkness
is pierced
by the sharp edged
light of our reflection

and out of this
this light primeval
is born the flower
of friendship

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you know how it seems
as if the sun is going down

although actually it is we
who are moving with the earth

from sunlight into dark
then from night into the light of day

try this
if you would

stand and face the sun at dusk
with feet set firmly on the ground

and while looking at the sun
feel our planets backward spin

as slowly and steadily
we enter its shadow of umbra blue

a movement from what seems
to what is true

as it is from notions held
to the truth be known

the movement of our earth
and of ourselves

a glimpse

you know how
at times we chance upon

a glimpse
a glance
a glimmer

through a tear
in our veil

a sight previously

and how we can then turn
and behold the light

that reveals
with such lucid beams

and how we find
tucked behind

and between
the lines

along the graceful

of letters
and words

a meaning
not reaped but gleaned

and how we listen for that
oh so subtle chord

of frequencies unheard
but nonetheless received

we step forward
step back


seemingly without destination
but yet

we can arrive
right now

right here
whole and serene


I walk once again
along that cobblestone avenue of long ago

past the corner grocery store
with apples, pears, peaches and potatoes

in baskets and waxed cardboard boxes
spilling out onto the sidewalk

the grocer’s white apron flapping in the breeze
pencil stub tucked behind his ear

to tally on brown paper bags
our purchases and his dreams

I turn up the hill of my street
the dark edges of my casted shadow

sharp against the bright white
sundrenched pavement

I stop to gaze down and wait to see
the length of my projected self

ever so slowly stretching to the east
of those days of times before

I feel once again
the hot summer breeze

against my white cotton shirt
and dungarees

scattering sparse leaves
from even sparser trees

I look up at where once
stood before

the red brick tenement façade
of where I was born and conceived

ghosts of old women
at the windows

searching for and finding their youth
in the children playing on the street

girls at hopscotch and double-dutch
boys at bat and ring-a-lee-vee-o

I hear voices calling them home
and listen closely longing to hear again

the sweet music
of my own mother’s call

I sit once again
on that wide grey granite stoop

eroded by generations
of comings and goings

the leavings of home
and homecomings

and now my own coming home
on this day of yesterday

just as real and as different
as everyday

and today
I am more the boy

than the man I was
after or before

motherless child
in memory of Nieves "Mami" Rios

she rode with her father on horseback
to her aunt’s farm in the mountains
her white dress like a white gardenia
against the lush verdant hills of Fajardo
she clung to her father’s waist
complaining of the bumpy ride
as the horse trod its slow climb
up and up the switchback path
until they finally reached the small plateau
where the little farm was plotted
and where her aunt welcomed her
the motherless child
into her home

she spent her days playing with her little cousins
chasing the chickens and goats in the yard
helping her aunt dig the fleshy malanga and yucca roots
from the fertile black earth of the garden
standing on a stool in the kitchen
wrapping and tying the grated masa in
banana leaves to make tasty pasteles
she spent her nights looking out the window
watching fireflies flicker across the tropic night sky
and wishing on the stars to some day
have a family and home to call her own
the songs of the coqui lulling her to sleep
and to dream of being held
in the sweet warm embrace
of her mother

who would have guessed that one day
she would sail away from that tropic isle
to the land and city of promise
marry and have scores of her own children
both grand and great and they would play
with her ducks and chickens in her own backyard
and even to her last days she would
continue to wrap and tie the grated masa of
malanga and yucca to make her tasty pasteles
and from her window the sounds of city streets
as she would lull her own children to sleep
with a lullaby of birds flying to the mountains
and they would awake to be held
in the sweet warm embrace
of their mother

I wear my fathers shoes

I wear my father's shoes
in old san juan

turn down the brim of my hat
just so

follow his footsteps along those
streets of blue stone

greeting passersby
with a friendly nod

I drink an ice cold beer
for his old time's sake

to quench a thirst
too long denied

I stand tall for him
again among the men

and speak in his tongue
of those from whom we come

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© 2014 Julius Rios