Poems by Aleida Rodríguez

Lexicon of Exile






                               For my mother, Paulina (1926–2000) 

When I go out to my garden

all I desire is a world with the mute on,

but there comes my neighbor, the haughty one, the one

who distinguishes himself by pronouncing words wrong in two languages,

the one who thinks himself too smart to work.

Or when I’m crouched beneath the fig tree, searching

for the darkest, sweetest fig—there suddenly appears

my elderly neighbor,

peering between the coral branches of bougainvillea,

offering me bits of her mind

like appetizers.

And it’s not that she doesn’t please me—

because in truth I love to see her

so full of life at 85,

so clearheaded, her eyes shining like the windows

of a house well cared for, like hers,

the one she bought in 1947,

the one that’s in her own name and not her husband’s.

But what happens is that when I finally leave my work

abandoned inside, on top of my desk,

I desire a wordless world, desire nothing

more than the silent vines of my mind

feeling into dark places—blood-sweet—

like a tongue exploring the hole left by a tooth that’s been extracted. 



Translated from the Spanish original by Aleida Rodríguez 

From THE FACE OF POETRY (University of California Press, 2005)