ESSAY: note on two translations, by Raquel Salas-Rivera

If you haven’t yet, read Raquel’s poems, EL SUCIO NUESTRO. Her translator’s note for “‘mediante el acto de circulación opuesto, o la metamorfosis inversa’/‘through the opposite act of circulation, or the inverse metamorphosis’” and “poema político/political poem” appears below. 

my mother sent me two links on june 12. one led to an article about the orlando shooting, the other led to an article about how the u.s. geological survey is going to shut down 177 hydrological station by july 1 because the puerto rican government has been unable to meet its $2 million payment [dead]line.

my mother said, have you heard? she says this every week. this is how we talk. first we send each other articles about the debt, about what the governor said, then how is your gf? how’s work? are you feeling better? should i send more coffee?

“‘mediante el acto de circulación opuesto, o la metamorfosis inversa’/‘through the opposite act of circulation, or the inverse metamorphosis’” could have been something i sent my mother, news from diaspora to island, an inverse metamorphosis. it is part of an unpublished book entitled lo terciario/the tertiary. its poems’ titles come from pedro scaron’s el capital, the 1976 translation of marx’s classic. published by siglo veintiuno editores, this translation was commonly used by the puerto rican left as part of a political formation program. lo terciario/the tertiary places it in relation to the puerto rican debt crisis. i wrote this particular poem for my cuirs the way they’ve written me into life. i wrote it for the water, for the wrong blood that seeks to end all the purities that keep killing us. it is an urgent poem because lately so many things have become urgent, especially change.

poema político/political poem” is in dialogue with miguel hernández’ “nanas de la cebolla/lullaby of the onion,” which was written while hernández was in prison. in a letter from his wife, josefina, hernández learned that she was nursing their son with onions and bread. the lullaby-poem becomes the onion; like the communion wafer, the symbol becomes sustenance. “poema político/political poem” refuses to accept the imposition of the in  visible line that is drawn in order to reestablish the distance between hernández and his child. this [dead]    line groups together disparate poetics as it rends apart our networks of need.

i thank the wanderer for accepting these poems. quería que la revista más cuir los publicara/i wanted the queerest of queer journals to publish them because right now i need my poems to feel they have a place to call home, even if “home” is always a fraught desire.

Raquel Salas-Rivera ha publicado poemas y ensayos en diversas antologías y revistas. En el 2011, Editora Educación Emergente publicó su primer libro, Caneca de anhelos turbios. En el 2016, Lark Books & Writing Studio publicó su segundo libro, oropel/tinsel. Puedes aprender más sobre su trabajo si visitas

Raquel Salas-Rivera has published poetry and essays in numerous anthologies and journals. In 2011, her first book, Caneca de anhelos turbios, was published by Editora Educación Emergente. In 2016, her chapbook, oropel/tinsel , was published by Lark Books & Writing Studio. You can find out more about her work at

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