The Day the Immigrants Took Over
by Luis Rivas
¡A desalambrar, a desalambrar! Que la tierra es nuestra, tuya y de aquel, de Pedro, María, Juan y José…” – Victor Jara
they were mopping up the floor in all
the buildings in downtown LA
pedro, maria, juan, josé and the rest
getting it ready for buffing; they
were emptying out all the office
trashcans into bigger trash bags
wiping down the glass doors and
windows with the luxurious, bold
silver, gold or black letters that read
executive, ceo, cfo, president, vice
president and board members; some
were sweeping, wiping down counter
tops in expensive homes in
mulholland drive, hollywood and
woodland hills, wearing bright yellow
rubber gloves; some drove drunk, got
into accidents and got arrested; some
re-stocked the shelves at liquor
stores or swapmeet boutiques
pedro, maria, juan, josé and the rest
counted the current stock
documenting nightly inventory only
to be accused of stealing first thing
in the morning by the owner, another
they were all immigrants, mostly
“illegal”, some with only legal
residences but no citizenship – in the
process; pedro, maria, juan, josé and
the rest; they would answer to
authority figures or better-off friends
and family – always in the process
citizenship pending dues, legal fees
lawyer expenses, pending the review
of potential criminal records
pending, always pending
then the raids became more frequent
and severe; first at the liquor stores
or swapmeet boutiques, downtown
LA buildings, the expensive homes
they cleaned, then at convenience
stores where they would shop for
groceries; they were arrested
convicted of a felony, fined, jailed to
burn off time that the state accused
pedro, maria, juan, josé and the rest
of owing and finally deported
so one day they organized; pedro
maria, juan, josé and the rest began
reading up on economy, history
political theory, philosophy and
military tactics
they were doing pushups, situps and
pullups in jail, counting out loud in
spanish, glancing over at the roaches
crawling on the beige, cold floor
noticing the vast majority of their
imprisoned neighbors were also
immigrants, all in unison reciting
they placed the improvised explosive
devices in all the rooms with the
glass doors, with the bold silver, gold
or black lettering that read executive
ceo, cfo, president, vice president
and board members; they worked in
shifts watching from the rooftops of
neighboring buildings with gallons
of diesel fuel, dry rags and lighters
they waited patiently in the bushes of
those same expensive, isolated
multi-story houses on hills built on
stilts; they waited in front of the
houses of the mayor, the governor,
the congressman; pedro, maria, juan,
josé and the rest waited
and then almost all at once they
and the police and press arrived
almost immediately; pedro, maria
juan, josé and the rest concealing
their identity with red rags covering
their entire faces except for their
brown piercing eyes, made identical
statements, saying
hermanos, elected representatives
we are the immigrants of your nation
and you have declared war on us so
we are acting in defense; implement
reformative democratic policies and
legislature or we shall have to act
offensively in an undemocratic
fashion; if you continue to bring
repression onto us, we shall return
it back 10 fold; we do not fear death
we are pedro, maria, juan, josé and
the rest; we come from a place where
there is no peace; where the heads of
our organizers hang on trees
blowing in the wind like ripe fruits
where there are no jobs, no schools
no hospitals, no democracy, only
churches, statues and empty, dry
yellow fields where once were farms
and homes; we come from war; we
are unafraid of it; we give you this
only choice:
give us peace or we’ll give you war.

Poetry is Bourgeois (Love Poem for Ulrike Meinhof)
by Luis Rivas
first i would just like to apologize
for writing this, for writing a love poem
you know, i don’t normally do this
write love poems, let alone to dead
german women, but there has not been
sufficient amount of work written in
your tribute, in your honor
an affected, tormented, creator of
rebellion—literary and in actuality, ulrike
meinhof, with dark, hurt mothering eyes
she who
embraced the clandestine, a mother
a journalist, a fighter, a revolutionary that
transcended her mortality—as we all must—
in the righteous cause against capitalism and
she who
denounced the myth of objectivity that
pollutes the world of journalism, neutrality
which is fetishized into grandeur, that
perpetuates inaction, callousness
well-measured treachery, criminality of
she who
stopped writing (in the professional sense)
understanding the violence of textual silence
and rose up with red army faction comrades
(who acted not from choice, but of historical
obligation—as we all must)
she who
understood that destruction begets
destruction, but violence begets resistance
and for her, i would abandon my stance
against monogamy; and for her, i would
re-think my stance on romantic relationships;
and for her, i would loosen my dogma on the
idea of marriage (historically, a method of
subjugation of women, a perpetuating
mechanism of capitalism); and for her, i
would fall with wide-open arms into
ideological abandon, suspend my radical
politics on marriage, relationships, and just
worship her with my unequal, flawed
incomplete, infantile revisionist love and get
on one knee, confess to her my bourgeois
but she would demand that i get up, look
her straight in the eye—as equals—all
convenience and mannerisms aside, and she
would say to me, comrade, to hell with all
that, you are my equal, do not attempt to
control yourself as a way to pay homage to
me; nothing is sacred, you struggle alongside
me, that’s all; everything else is subjugated
naturally, she would turn down my reactionary
offer and say, i have one thing to ask:
stop writing, start acting; poetry is bourgeois
and i would take out my rejection on all future
partners; incomparably measure them to ulrike
a rejection that I would never recover from,
from a german women, now 37 years dead, with
cold unfeeling doctors, slicing up her brain still
trying to figure out her revolutionary
commitment, what they mistakenly term as
madness, sickness, which we call adequate
repulsion for the world, appropriately
measured reaction to it, proportional anger,
indignation, but above all things only
love, love, all things love

Aliens Who Barely Exist
(Dedicated to _________)
by Luis Rivas
_________ barely existed.

_________ wasn’t a US citizen,
not even human; _________ was
an illegal alien who had to change
his name many times; _________
had to lie about his address;
_________ had to lie about his birth
date; _________ had to change his
hair many times – from parting it
on the side, to slicking it all back,
to even shaving it off completely.

_________ was an ex-guerilla
in the civil war of El Salvador
back in the 80’s, and would never
be allowed to become a US citizen;
_________ saw friends die and kill,
and after surviving something he
didn’t expect to he was faced with
the ex-guerilla’s ultimate dilemma:
what now?

_________ served a few prison
terms; _________ was deported and
came back again with a new name, a
new haircut; _________ could only
find work in warehouses, factories,
bath houses and porno shops, places
that didn’t mind hiring aliens who
barely existed.

and _________ will keep running
and working, barely existing the entire
time, only finding peace in the
thought that wherever he is buried
his tombstone will finally reveal
his true birth date and maybe even
his true name.