Room 219

translated by Katie King
Photo by Renate Dodell
Photo by Renate Dodell

These are the closed doors of a hotel hallway.
What once were dreams, what life will one day be.

She dares to ask. Room 217
looks like
a sunny Caribbean isle,
like a shipwreck that can only be reached by
the time of light,
the day spent watching oneself in the naked
mirror of the sheets.

The hands and eyes are questions
and even silence turns its head
to see them shine,
to bask in dreams like basking in the sun,
young and stretched out on the bed.

Their closets hold no luggage.

Perhaps you can hear them. But guard
your traveler’s signature,
because in another window, right next door,
the sun of Room 218
holds the ambiguous light of cloudy days,
memory and future, November skin
between the brightness or the storm.

The traveler is alone. He looks at the television
as you would look at photographs
in a stranger’s house,
as you would seek out familiar faces
amid a city’s throngs.

Who will open the doors of winter,
whose hand holds the key
to Room 219?
Its windows don’t exist
and the empty bed lies ready
for the defeated
to look around, sit down, undress
and lie down to wait,
to navigate the night,
set sail across his own thoughts,
when the world will be nothing
but the noise of footsteps and voices,
on the other side of the door
in the hotel hallway.

Translation from the Spanish
By Katie King

Photo by Katie King

Luis García Montero (b. 1958, is an acclaimed Spanish poet, novelist, and essayist. He helped found the poetic movement called “Poetry of Experience,” in which everyday activities illuminate the hopes and fears that mark the post-Franco era. “Room 219” appears in Habitaciones separadas (Separate rooms), which won Spain’s National Poetry Prize in 1995.

Photo by Paul Brannan

Katie King ( is an award-winning journalist and literary translator currently working on a PhD in Hispanic studies at the University of Washington in Seattle.