Mr. Rivera or Why, If You Can, You Should Retire

Jose Vilson Jose



A little preface: Mr. Rivera had been working at my school on and off for 28 years, and overall, for 34. In that time span, he played a lot of roles. In his later years, he met his match (i.e. me). We used to go barb-for-barb, but in a joking way. One day, he decided to cross the line with his joke (not really) and I said, “Next year, watch, I’m going to get you back.” I worked on this poem for that whole year, and did LOTS of research. I learned so much from that man, and he will be missed. This is dedicated to the now retired Mr. Rivera.

“Mr. Rivera,
I hope you appreciate this
It took me a really long time to write this:
All of 15 minutes
1 to come up with insults
And 14 to write them all down. OK, here goes.”

“Mr. Rivera”

The Sultan of Insult
The Surrogate of Sarcasm
The BS Detector / Producer
The Freakin’ Nuyorican
Or in the hearts and minds of some teachers, administrators, and students
Ese Maldito Boricua!
And he apparently taught too
ELA / ESL / Social Studies, and his favorite subject, himself
Sitting with him for 40 minutes a day made it easy to see
That he’s told everyone his autobiography
And despite this, after I asked his closest friends,
Who from what I see, kept him close because it’s safer that way,
“Hey, give me the worst story you know about him!”
They couldn’t come up with just one.
This man is that infamous.
Like the time he was cursed at, his teachable moment became a lesson
On the at least 6 words to use the word fuck
Or the times he’d tell the kids that the only sound he wants to hear
are their eyes blinking, or the voices in his head,
Depending on how much sleep he got the night before
Or the times he’s corrupted a whole list of teachers, a few of whom are here
But the majority of them who had to retire because of this man
Or the times he’d rock his afro, his multi-striped shirt, and some tight jeans in the 70s
Cruising down the street, hailed a taxi, and tried to get into the disco
When he’d get stopped and searched once
And by the fourth time, he realized they were harassing him for his really thick sideburns
Or the one time when you were holding the lady’s hand in the auditorium during assembly
And you thought I didn’t see it, but when I did
You had the nerve to be like, “And what?!”
Or the time when, after finding out about the changes in this school,
He thusly proclaimed that he got a job downtown as the Supervisor of Bulletin Boards, or
In brief,
Oh Eddie Rivera
Eddie “The Fly” Rivera
Your retirement is sweet music to [this] High School ** budget’s ears
But surely you will be missed
Your voice ringing through the 6th grade floor
Your special brand of Spanish insults
Your extended cigarette breaks
Your inability towards compassion
Your obscure references to Arnold Horshack
Your mimic of my salutes
Your walk down the hallway like you ran the place
Which in many ways you did
Part teacher, part bi-lingual coordinator
(Oh, the irony of your employee becoming your now former boss, har, har)
Part dean, part right-hand-man
Part “I’m going downtown to suspend this kid”
Part “You get back over here”
Part “You’ve got 30 seconds to drink water, 30, 15, 10, 5, OK, you’re back.”
Part “You wanna know what I really feel?” because
Ladies and Gentlemen:
You really don’t want to hear it
It’s not for the faint hearted
And neither is this profession
It’s one thing to be really good for a couple of years, and suck
All the way until you reached 25 years
And it’s quite another to be that consistent for that long
Hear in front of everyone how excellent you are
Even get the highest test scores out of anyone in the building
But because of the system, get excessed
Kicked square in the ass
And come back and kick ‘em right back
It’s easy to say that that he needed the money
Saved up from all the food he’s not eating behind his back
And that he’s got enough grease in his hair to
But in front of his face, you see a true love for the job
A determination to show others he’s still got it
Still raise scores
Still show discipline to the worst of the worst
Still stay relatively quiet about all the accomplishments he’s had
Still take care of Ethan, and provide that good laugh every morning in whichever room he’s in
He’s an asshole that everyone loves
He couldn’t have retired soon enough
Because even as he’s missed,
He reminds us that we work to live and not live to work
Our lives so much richer for this sardonic sage
Before our hearts and minds give out
Before it’s too late to say “retired
Let us remember our own humanity
Regardless of whether or not after 28 or 34 years, we’d reach a point of insanity
Or whatever part of our brains remain
We may never see another Rivera like that Rivera again …

Mr. V, whose honored to have even had this chance …