River Rail Puerto Rico Issue
River Rail

Subtropical Dry*

Poems by Nicole Cecilia Delgado, translated by Urayoán Noel

Leer en español >>

From this side you can see El Yunque         The idea of a map
    as big as an island           The piercing words of our struggle
  sometimes clear and sometimes         still unfinished.
   covered in clouds that soak it         The roads of new neighborhoods
         and make it grow.        somehow strangely familiar.
                             The German shepherds
         From Vieques          in the yard we just passed by
           Puerto Rico          to get to the campsite.
                 Is          Coconut palm trees,
           El Yunque.        pillars of our dreams of open skies.
                               A building taken over
                               and a library full of documents
            A solid vision               someone would rather have forgotten
that changes and upholds the horizon.         or destroyed.

  In the remote premises
Of our first rebellion

  ‐always personal‐

  Was the only country.

       And the water between islands
was the territory.

Water of night, fired up sea, photovoltaic cell
we are. Cosmic creature that never figured out
its place in the universe. We’re breathing in
light and tomorrow we too will shine.

In the distance:
         Culebra Island
         Culebrita Island
         Palomino Island
         Saint Croix
         El Yunque

The state of the matter of ecosystems.
  The galaxy's time with no end.

  The sand, the memory of sand
    inside the hammocks.

What does light sound like at night
    and underwater?
what is the cry of a school of sardines?
how much does a skinny horse weigh?

Neighborhood of protests              Institute for Community Struggle
Occupying the military zone                 Continuous revolution
Glorious picket lines                      Cautious victory
A people's choreography               Fisherman's Festival
May 4, 2000                        Cheché Ayala
Pepper spray
rubber bullets
countless arrests
to love or to die
the paddy wagon
unifying strategy
Obstructing military maneuvers
June 2000
the first time a judge tries a case
at the Ceiba naval base
Puerto Rico's illness is oblivion            The brave fishermen of Vieques
“I too threw rocks and other things”              confronting the warships
the role of heroism in civil joy             with their little boats.

The depths of the warrior sea.
Explosive depths of the sea.

*These excerpts are part of Subtropical Dry, written in August 2015 in Vieques, Puerto Rico, during the itinerant seminar. SONIDO VIEQUES, Beta-Local Summer Sessions, organized by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz and Michelle Nonó in collaboration with Radio Vieques.

SONIDO VIEQUES was a walking seminar and collective sound project on the island of Vieques. The seminar focused on the sensory, social, and material traces in preparation for war. Vieques was used as a bombardment field and military base by the United States Navy for 60 years. The Navy occupied about two-thirds of the island’s territory, which was used for live ammunition bombing, warehouse, and base. In 2003, after decades of community struggle and intensified periods of direct resistance or civil disobedience, the Navy was forced to close the base and suspend its practices.

Beta-Local sessions are a series of experimental seminars anchored in geography, local knowledge, emerging artistic practices, and the political and social conditions of Puerto Rico. The exuberant tropical ecology of the island coexists with environmental devastation, institutional mimesis, deterioration, post-industrial and post-military spaces—as well as a growing social movement that seeks to understand
and transform these conditions.


Urayoan Noel

Urayoán Noel is a Bronx-based poet, performer, and translator from Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. His books include In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam and Buzzing Hemisphere / Rumor Hemisférico. He edited and translated Architecture of Dispersed Life: Selected Poetry by Pablo de Rokha, which was shortlisted for the National Translation Award. Noel teaches at New York University and at Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas.

Nicole Delgado

Nicole Delgado is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and book artist. In 2016, she founded La Impresora, an editorial studio specialized in small-scale independent publishing. Her latest books include: Apenas un cántaro: Poemas 2007-2017 (Ediciones Aguadulce, 2017), and Periodo especial (Aguadulce/La Impresora, 2019), which explores the socioeconomic mirror images between the Greater Antilles in light of Puerto Rico’s ongoing financial crisis. Delgado is widely regarded as one of the leading Puerto Rican poets of her generation, and as a cultural worker bringing together artists, activists, and writers from across the Americas.


The Brooklyn Rail

River Rail Puerto Rico

All Issues