Elena Medel





The night of your death

God spattered my window with wet. The rain           

            hurt as much as cold hurts in a Christmas story

            inside cardboard neighborhoods. The wind

hit the walls, slipped through the cracks in the house,

            chilled the closets, made its shrieks

            a guarded lullaby.

Hidden beneath the bed, I covered my ears, ignoring

            the wind’s presence outside my bedroom door.

To enter, you’ll need to pass twelve tests.

            I will not make it so easy.

I saw myself as an etymologist of atmospheric conditions, a meanings expert.

Just outside my fifteen year old fears, cotton

            sang within a dream of Sophocles:

Open and you will see how the cold awaits you with its frightening face, to

            tell you everything you don’t want to know. Open and you will see that

            the cold waits with its terrifying face to read the story

            inside your hands.

It poured down outside the closed door to my room. The

            water overwhelmed the sheets, soaked through the box springs, and the lint

            moved—poor, extremely dense—toward the door.

I lay down, drenched, on the mattress.

(Welded in black)

Lying down on the mattress, I disconnected the telephone.

            The lint—abundant, proud—sought my bed.

The light pushed its particles against my eyes: barbed

like hail, imitating in its percussion applause.

The lamp learned its gestures from the clouds, unloaded

            all its rage on me. I don’t interfere. It’s enough

            to resist the larger dark.   

The lint climbed up the night stand

            and invaded my bed, and slipped through, camping

            in my throat.

My gray mouth, oracle that is always right, refused

            the next steps. I breathed with difficulty.

            I could think of nothing else.

Dirty, sure, for going where I am not called.

            I listened how, in the next room, Caravaggio

            hoarded all the attention.

Hardly half an hour. The call, the departure of my parents,

            your death.

My chest bumped into the TV; my forehead, the nape of my neck, my sweat

            confused with water.




(I am Salomón. I plan to build a secret altar for Sundays.

            I’m not looking for praise,

            but that you give me a hand,

            help me escape the tide.

The river I entered rises with the tears

            of strangers. My heart is a sponge, a black box that


all that happens.

Meanwhile, the funeral home does its job. Rent is equal to

            the cold.

A blond woman, pale, welcomes me. I am Salomón.

            I will show you my secret altar

if you show me where she rests.)

Ophelia on the other side of the glass, Angélica after four

years, obeyed by the water,

while I kicked to keep from drowning. I say water and

            cry for the one I lost. Like pushing a

button deep into my back. The known

disturbs me.

Two days before you said: When I’m better, I’ll go to the salon

to fix this disaster.

The window showed the opposite: in your gray roots,

            overgrown, your curls sprung for forty days and

            forty nights.

Never vulnerable, never dead: as beautiful as the

            last time we saw each other.

(God, then, placed his hands on my shoulders

and I felt alone.)




Flannel protects my subterranean life. The world, beneath the

sheets, is perceived differently:

its thickness was supposed to keep me from fangs and radioactivity, was

            supposed to keep me away from the attacks of monsters.

Yellow tulips on a blue background. Prozac for the dark

            hours. It was hard to breathe beneath the sheets. The nightmares

            made a partial

stratum outside my bedroom, above the

            clouds, where asphyxiation occurs with the same


as beneath the blankets. Right when I couldn’t breathe, you

            rescued me, and I fell asleep embracing you, four, five

            years old, and my nightmares were digested with breakfast.

Everything I have

I owe to you. You learned to read when you were five. At eighty

            you wrote, on a pad of graph paper, your

            life. Happiness was your last word—

Now that you have died, on the other side of the closed bedroom door

            while older sisters run for

refuge beneath the colonnades,

someone who is not me, but looks like me, writes in a

            telephone booth in permanent black ink:

God, come here,

I dare you to come back and do it, now

I am bigger than you.




The falling rain forms a mudslide, illuminates

            the shoulders and avenues for the nighttime traffic,

expels from its kingdom the most beautiful inhabitants, provokes

            envy, outrage, signed treaties.

It also transforms its cravings in ready notes

            on a corkboard: I need to clean up the terrace, put

            my papers in order, guard myself for when the storm comes.

The rain accomplishes all of this

just as the wind decrees that trees don’t matter, that homes

should spend the night awake, and strips clotheslines

and newspapers,

and interrupts the sleep of those who consider themselves safe,

            beating against the glass of our windows.

And death

doesn’t respect your closed door. Melting, it pressures

the translucent cracks, and drags itself creeping         

into the place where you sleep,

dirtying your feet when you wake, impregnating your bones

and flesh with its stench,

until you breathe in deeply

and decide, throwing the sheets off, to shout at it

from the middle of your room–done with everything,

scared of its presence—

I no longer fear death, since it brings me back to her.



Translated by Emily Vizzo and Curtis Bauer


 You can read and listen to the poem in the original Spanish here.