Meeting the Ghost of Diego Rivera at a Dive Bar in East Los Angeles 

Poetry / Jose Hernandez Diaz


:: Meeting the Ghost of Diego Rivera at a Dive Bar in East Los Angeles ::

I met the ghost of Diego Rivera at a hidden bar in East Los Angeles. He had a cigar in his right
hand along with a fancy wristwatch. He was wearing a brown professor’s coat and a pair of dress
shoes. It was early Fall. I asked him if I could buy him a beer. “I’ll take a Cerveza Bohemia,” he
said. “How long have you been in town?” I asked. “I moved to southern California in the late
90’s. My house is now worth a small fortune,” he said. When the beers arrived, we clinked
“salud” and watched a European futbol match on television. I wanted to ask him what Frida was
like, but I knew better. “What was David Alfaro Siqueiros like,” I asked. “Very serious. But
extremely talented,” he said. “What about Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock?” I asked. “They
were down-to-earth and wild,” he said. “The next one is on me. A couple more Mexican Pilsners,
Señor,” he asserted. As the sun set on the east side, we eventually said our goodbyes around
eleven. I drove home and listened to a free jazz station on the radio. I couldn’t stop thinking
about how friendly Rivera’s ghost was, though. So much for the
chisme and negative rumors.
When I got home, I painted a portrait of us having beers at the bar
on a small canvas. Something
to remember him by. Something for proof of
meeting ghosts, I pondered.

From the writer


:: Account ::

This prose poem was writ­ten dur­ing a gen­er­a­tive work­shop I taught. I wrote a prompt for my stu­dents say­ing, “write about meet­ing a deceased icon in an oth­er­wise mun­dane set­ting.” I decid­ed to respond to the prompt with the class. I had already writ­ten anoth­er prose poem to this same prompt a cou­ple years ago, one where I met Diego Maradona and Sal­vador Dali, so this is part of a larg­er series of pieces where I meet my idols, most of them from Latin Amer­i­can cul­ture and his­to­ry. When I meet these icons through my prose poems I like to have the meet­ings take place in casu­al, mun­dane set­tings. After I wrote the first draft in the work­shop with the stu­dents, the next day, at home, I fin­ished edit­ing it and sub­mit­ted it. 


Jose Her­nan­dez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poet­ry Fel­low. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020) Bad Mex­i­can, Bad Amer­i­can (Acre Books, 2024), The Para­chutist (Sun­dress Pub­li­ca­tions, 2025) and Por­trait of the Artist as a Brown Man (Red Hen­Press, 2025). He has been pub­lished in The Yale Review, The Lon­don Mag­a­zine, and in The South­ern Review. He teach­es gen­er­a­tive work­shops for Hugo House, Light­house Writ­ers Work­shops, The Writer’s Cen­ter, and else­where. Addi­tion­al­ly, he serves as a Poet­ry Men­tor in The Adroit Jour­nal Sum­mer Men­tor­ship Program