Pilar Adón

Translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee
A poor woman with a babe in arms
is poor twice over.


A compulsion for caring. An incurable compulsion. 
In everywoman who hurries.
Who doesn’t rest, who does it all.
Drowning in herself.
Who gets up when others are restless
who loses weight when others stop eating.
Each step goodbye, each separation
a desolation that denies respite.
Crushed against breastbones and sustained
with bygone years and uncertainty: will there be more?
Skin pale as the wood of a door
and hands suffocating 
as they slice flesh. 

They don’t notice
that we carry a bitterness in our genes
inherited from every woman.
Hatchets buried in the flesh, 
grown over. Where they remain. 
Women watching and being watched. 
Acting alone and before the world.
Yearning for respite
without knowing how to rest.
Revealing a hate that cannot be cured
with words that should not exist.
Without responding like this or behaving like that,
making the most of.
Without facing up to.

I don't neglect writing,
but rather myself.
—Ingeborg Bachmann
Who will look after me when I’m old?
Who will wait for me expectantly? 
Hair in knots. No nightly brushing.
Combs and silver mirrors.
Alone in my chair. Fed up with fatigue and lectures.
Without children to bathe me,
to cook me stew on mash,
to bring me oversized sweaters,
to wash my feet and underarms
when there are few reasons left to live. 
Vanquished by the logic
of reaping what has been sown.
Celebrations, birthdays, and parties
foreseeing a perfect solitude.
Who will come visit me
on weekends?
If I am not a mother. 
If I live without appreciating devotion, service.
Tenderness. Calling on grieving friends.
Among excuses, papers, and books, 
estranged from old feelings.
Escaping the ultimate calling.  
Not knowing attachment. 
Pity. The preciousness of picture-perfect children. Their sweet, easy minds
like slices of roasted apple. Like bags of Haribo.

Who will hold me when I’m old? 
And alone. And there is no one who wants to talk to me. And the curtains catch fire
and the flames rise to the roof. And no one can reach 
the telephone. To call the firehouse. 

Pilar Adón was born in Madrid in 1971. Her poetry book Las órdenes was awarded the 2018 Libro del Año Prize by the Association of Bookshops of Madrid. Other books of poems are Da dolorMente animal and La hija del cazador. Her most recent novel is De bestias y aves (2022). The previous one, Las efímeras, was judged one of the best ten novels of 2015. In 2017 she published her 3rd story collection, La vida sumergida. She is a writer, publisher (of Impedimenta Books) and translator.

Samantha Schnee is the founding editor of Words Without Borders. Her translation of Jeannette Clariond’s Goddesses of Water was published by World Poetry Editions in September and featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Modern Poetry in Translation. She recently translated a bilingual poetry anthology, Grandes en Casa, which will be launched in Houston at Rice University in November. Her translation of Carmen Boullosa’s Texas: The Great Theft was shortlisted for the PEN America Translation Prize in 2015 and her translation of Boullosa’s El libro de Eva, which was shortlisted for the Mario Vargas Llosa Biennial Novel Prize, will be published by Deep Vellum in March 2023.

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