Poetry The Filth issue

Something Other than Life

By Reina María Rodríguez

Translated from the Spanish by Kristin Dykstra

Something other than life takes place inside me when the sound of the fumigation truck precedes the entry of its smoke. Its siren penetrates crevices before daybreak. The sparrows are wary and hide in holes left by collapsed walls and balconies. And the smoke rises, and with it the sound advances, recalling some war that has not happened or maybe it has. She peers through the slit in a shutter, and the horror rolls in: smoke floods privacy, smoke floods dream. She watches how it envelops old constructions, tile roofs, houses, water tanks, and air vents, asphyxiating everything, and its contour becomes the silhouette of smoke and complicity (because everything here is smoke) and she wants to jump up and flee the fear of asphyxiation, of grief: fear is circular, it has enveloped her since childhood. She knows that everything can become still more inanimate and shivers. Losing perspective on a real existence, on a past. It’s an attack. First the siren that sends the alert; seconds later, the glide of the cistern truck (which she has not seen, she only senses it from above, in her blood, in her bones). The asphalt squeaks under hot rubber, it swells and bursts. One day they could spray the wrong gas (the swallows know it, she suspects it too) and they could end up poisoned by an “enemy gas.” Because “you never know where the enemy is,” but sometimes she has the sensation that, more than offering protection or defense against epidemic, they’re warning her of something sinister, of what could happen if she breaches the bounds represented by the balcony, if she oversteps and opens the doors.


To read this poem in Spanish, click here.
Reina María Rodríguez is the author of more than thirty books. Rodríguez has received numerous awards, including the Alejo Carpentier Medal and the Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Award.
Kristin Dykstra is a writer, translator, and scholar who lives in Vermont. She is the principal English translator of Reina María Rodríguez’s The Winter Garden Photograph, which won the 2020 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.