River Rail Puerto Rico Issue
River Rail

Excerpts from Falsa heladería and Sal de magnesio

Poetry by Mara Pastor.

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These poems appeared in Spanish in Mara Pastor’s collection Falsa heladería, published by Ediciones Aguadulce (Bayamón, PR: 2018). Translations into English are by María José Giménez and Anna Rosenwong.

The Breakwater
          for Cindy, who knows about laughter

This island is full of women
who come back like returning
remains with the rising tide
or turtles to their natal shore.

They were prepared for the debt,
but not for heavy metals in the water,
cadmium in the ash they breathe.

Unprepared for the poverty of the house
for a piece of the pool collapsing,
a molar for which your mother
will have to wait three months
because illness also waits in line.

Now I’m walking on the breakwater.
I remember two people happy
about a past joy.
This time it’s daytime.
I just arrived by prop plane.

I don’t think I’ll succeed in writing
the comic poem about heads
Cindy asked me for when we were fundraising
for Elizam’s treatment,
but you’ll be a poem
about returning to a breakwater,

and weighing the pieces of this island,
its heavy metals,
the loved ones who leave;
thinking, from another shore, about survival,
and among so much Aedes, about love.
I come back to tread this land
and walk with the women
who return to this breakwater
to stop the rising tide.

Perishable Paradise I

Behind the old
Corco refinery
there is a dock
we’d never seen before.
Despite the iron pilings
the boats are worthy
of a postcard,
if only we didn’t know
about the heavy metals
in the air.

Perishable Paradise II

In paradise there are oysters,
a man selling crabs,
a beach where the sun sets
while you hang your hammock.
In paradise they only prepare fish
at Caro Valle’s shop,
I float on the water
like islands float on an atlas
and your hands rock in slow motion
a drifting body.

National Poet

If everything stays like this.
If everyone leaves now
that there’s no water,
money or coquís,
the island will be taken
by iguanas
and sea lions.
They will make me a bust.
It’ll be easy to be national poet
among gallinas de palo.

These poems appeared in Spanish in Mara Pastor’s collection Sal de magnesio (2015). Translations into English are by Eilyn Lombard.


island creature
in some places
in others sealiving
in this place we
hurt one another with the sea

to talk about that which goes beyond us at the expense
of flooding
the surroundings

I write as if I wanted to take back the words
to some place or better yet get rid of them altogether

here I body you

when to disembark is not an option
nor is staying on the boat

I submerge myself in magnesium salt
nothing I hear

the magnesium sulfate
makes the sea water
absorb the sound

what we will hear
when there is no more
sulfate in the sea


Just a month ago, I was in another city where the
water made my hair fall out. Nor did my nails
grow. Here, instead, my hair has grown as if div-
ers could climb cliffs with it. Here, the nails want
to be clothes hangers. It could be because of the
water in this city. Also my nails hit the keyboard
and this made them stronger. It is like my nails
typing, keep diving into an empty swimming
pool. The water in this city is contaminated, the
water in the other city too. It is said that their
rivers may take you anywhere. People who know
this seek to block all the harbors. The loss of my
hair makes me think that you get older faster in
the other city. The contaminated water in this
city reminds me that we will also die here, but
with abundant and long hair.


Mara Pastor

Mara Pastor is a Puerto Rican poet, editor, and scholar. She has authored six full-length poetry books in Spanish as well as the bilingual chapbooks As Though the Wound Had Heard (Cardboard House Press, 2017), translated by María José Giménez, and Children of Another Hour (Argos Books, 2014), translated by Noel Black. Her latest book, Natal Debt, co-translated by María José Giménez and Anna Rosenwong, was selected for the 2020 Ambroggio Prize by Pablo F. Medina and is forthcoming from University of Arizona Press in 2021. She is an Associate Professor of Spanish at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce.

Eilyn Lombard

Eilyn Lombard is a Cuban poet and publisher. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages of the University of Connecticut. Lombard has published the poetry books Todas las diosas fatigadas (Ediciones La Luz, Holguín, 2011), and Suelen ser frágiles las muchachas sobre el puente (Reina del Mar Editores, 2005), as well as articles and reviews in Cuban magazines such as La Gaceta de Cuba, and Yzur and Inti in the United States. Her poetry books Las tierras rojas and Bienvenido a Facebook are coming soon by the publishing houses Ediciones Mecenas and Letras Cubanas, respectively.

María José Giménez

María José Giménez is a Venezuelan-Canadian poet, translator, and editor whose work has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. Assistant Translation Editor of Anomaly, María José is the translator of Tilting at Mountains by Edurne Pasaban, Alejandro Saravia’s novel Red, Yellow, and Green, and the chapbook As Though the Wound Had Heard by Mara Pastor. Her work has appeared in journals and in anthologies such as Aftermath: Explorations of Loss & Grief, Cloudburst: An Anthology of Hispanic Canadian Short Stories, and Cuentos de nuestra palabra en Canadá: Primera hornada. Among other awards, María José has been named the 2019 Poet Laureate of Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Anna Rosewong

Anna Rosenwong is a translator, book editor, and educator. Her translation of Rocío Cerón’s Diorama won Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award, and her collected translations of José Eugenio Sánchez are now available as here the sun’s for real. As the translation editor of Anomaly, Rosenwong received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Banff International Literary Translation Centre, and the American Literary Translators Association. Her scholarly and creative work has been featured in such venues as World Literature Today, the Kenyon Review, and Modern Poetry Today. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from the University of California, Irvine.


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