Published on Academy of American Poets (

A Few Things Are Explained To Me

for Daniel; after Pablo

It was five o’clock when paper handkerchiefs descended
over the ocean’s surge—
              one ocean varnished by oil in the morning, fish under the surge’s blades.

My country, you whimpered under fog. I awoke to the tender
sound of seashells on the radio.

I knelt by myself and listened. Your flat skeleton, large skeleton,
would group at your back.
Come, you murmured over canned goods. Come. I will tell you

clay seeps onto roots, roots drawn by salt, roots crowned
by trees. The cords unravel from the flesh of trees, unravel
by the storm shutters. Come.

See the roads brim with red poppy, roads tracked
by green serpents
                                                                       ((a la víbora, víbora / de la mar, de la mar)) 

I tendered nine eggs before the ignorant lion 
of exile, who nodded.

At five in the morning, everything seemed to be made of lime—

one torso shrouded by magnolia, one torso under vulgar peal 
of grey morgues, and the fish.


Copyright © 2019 Ricardo Maldonado. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘A Few Things Are Explained to Me’ began as an exercise in Daniel Borzutzky’s CantoMundo workshop, where I found in a source poem (in my case, Neruda’s ‘I Explain a Few Things’) a model to write through, to write about something I cared for, something my mind wanted to work through. In this case: the more than 3,000 hurricane-related deaths in Puerto Rico in 2017, and, if I remember it correctly, my having woken up at 5 AM or so that September morning as radio stations were losing power across the island. Regrettably, two weeks after the workshop, I lost most of my notes in a rainstorm; a page or two of my rewriting survived, some lines from a nursery rhyme I remembered and few smudges.”
Ricardo Alberto Maldonado


Ricardo Alberto Maldonado

Ricardo Alberto Maldonado was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He is the author of The Life Assignment (Four Way Books, 2020), and translator of Dinapiera Di Donato’s Colaterales/Collateral (Akashic Press/National Poetry Series, 2013). Maldonado has received fellowships from CantoMundo, Queer|Arts|Mentorship and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is the Managing Director of the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center and lives in New York City. 

Date Published: 2019-09-11

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