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Poem: From ‘Algarabía’

Roque Raquel Salas Rivera’s epic poem “Algarabía” follows the journey of its protagonist, Cenex, on the Isle of Algarabía, a fantastical projection of Puerto Rico, referred to in the poem as ELA (Estado Libre Asociado) and in the English translation as the Commonwealth, Puerto Rico’s official colonial status. “Algarabía” is a Spanish word rooted in “Al-arabiyya” or Arabic, which came to mean the uproarious noise made when many voices are speaking at once. This fragment is from a moment in the epic in which the voices of a transgender chorus come together to help the hero through his journey. Selected by Anne Boyer

Credit…Illustration by R.O. Blechman

From “Algarabía”

By Roque Raquel Salas Rivera

Todes recibimos la invitación.

Llevamos tanto tiempo viviendo en el horizonte
que ya no hay costa que nos reconozca.

Nos enterraron donde entierran los navíos,
los proyectos del ELA y las ballenas de la literatura
que no representan ninguna amenaza.

Algún día, un gran escritor dirá
que fuimos una idea tan grande como el mar
y, muertos, asentiremos.

We all receive the invitation.

We have lived on the horizon for so long,
coasts no longer know our flags.

They buried us where they bury ships,
Commonwealth projects, and literary whales,
which represent no threat.

Someday, a great writer will claim
we were an idea the breadth of an ocean
and, being dead, we will agree.


Anne Boyer is a poet and an essayist. Her memoir about cancer and care, “The Undying,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for general nonfiction. Roque Raquel Salas Rivera is a Puerto Rican poet and translator born in Mayagüez. He lives, teaches and writes in Puerto Rico. Accompanied by his cat, Pietri, he is currently working on the trans epic poem “Algarabía,” which will be published in 2025 by Graywolf Press.

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