Two Poems

Then My Daughter 

Turned to her toys and said
the first to realize
will be those who watch over the air;
those who survive
will stay away from machines
and retreat to the few remaining forests,
they will never send another text message
or their children to school,
but they will sing and mourn
the way one sprouts avocado seeds
on toothpicks;
they will speak of heavy metals in the air,
remember the names of clouds,
read in the shade of tree trunks.


Entones mi hija 

Se viró hacia sus juguetes y dijo
los primeros que se darán
cuenta son los que velan el aire;
los que sobrevivan
se alejarán de las máquinas
y se meterán a los pocos bosques que queden,
no enviarán más nunca un mensaje de texto
ni a sus hijos a la escuela,
pero cantarán y harán duelo
como quien siembra semillas de aguacate
con palillos de diente;
hablarán de metales pesados en el aire,
se acordarán de los nombres de las nubes,
leerán el sol en la sombra de los troncos.


Natal Debt

I’ll say storm.
I’ll say river.
I’ll say tornado.
I’ll say leaf. 
I’ll say tree.
I’ll be wet.
I’ll be damp.
I won’t be a bust.
I won’t be a pelican.
Baby I’ll want.
Man I’ll want. 
The man’s song I’ll want.
Woman I’ll always be.
Small woman I’ll have.
Small island I’ll have.
Money I won’t have.
Sleepy I’ll be.
Too much work I’ll have.
I’ll say salt.
I’ll say papaya.
I’ll say bean and yucca.
Car I’ll have.
Fuel I’ll have.
Washer I’ll have.
Everything’s so expensive I’ll say.
Everything’s so pretty I’ll say.
Cats I’ll have.
Cat hair I’ll have.
Mother and father I’ll have.
Mother I’ll be.
Aunt I’ll be.
Wife I’ll be.
Friend I’ll be.
I’ll have little.
I’ll have a rented house.
I’ll have debt.
I’ll say tree.
I’ll say leaf.
I’ll say tornado.
I’ll say river.
I’ll say storm.


Deuda natal

Tormenta diré.
Río diré.
Tornado diré.
Hoja diré.
Árbol diré.
Mojada seré.
Humedecida seré.
Busto no seré.
Pelícano no seré.
Bebé querré.
Hombre querré.
La canción del hombre querré.
Mujer siempre seré.
Mujer pequeña tendré.
Isla pequeña tendré.
Dinero no tendré.
Sueño tendré.
Trabajo demasiado tendré.
Sal diré.
Papaya diré.
Habichuela y yuca diré.
Carro tendré.
Lavadora tendré.
Qué caro todo diré.
Qué lindo todo diré.
Gatos tendré.
Pelo de gato tendré.
Madre y padre tendré.
Madre seré.
Tía seré.
Esposa seré.
Amiga seré.
Poco tendré.
Casa alquilada tendré.
Deuda tendré. 
Árbol diré.
Hoja diré.
Tornado diré.
Río diré.
Tormenta diré.

Translator’s note: “Natal Debt” was first published in the Puerto Rico Review (August 2019).

Photo:Joelly Rodríguez

Mara Pastor is a leading Puerto Rican poet, editor, and scholar. Pastor is the author of several collections of poetry, including Natal Debt, translated by María José Giménez and Anna Rosenwong, which was selected for the 2020 Ambroggio Prize, given by the Academy of American Poets, and is forthcoming from the University of Arizona Press. She is an associate professor of Spanish at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce.

María José Giménez is a poet, translator, and editor whose work has received support from the NEA, the Studios at MASS MoCA, the Breadloaf Translators’ Conference, Canada Council for the Arts, and BILTC. María José is the author of Chelated and co-translator of Mara Pastor’s Deuda Natal, winner of the Academy of American Poets’ Ambroggio Prize.

Anna Rosenwong is a translator, editor, and content strategist. Her work has been honored with the Best Translated Book Award, the Academy of American Poets’ Ambroggio Prize, and an NEA fellowship. Her publications include Deuda Natal (Mara Pastor), Diorama (Rocío Cerón), and here the sun’s for real (José Eugenio Sánchez).