bioluminescence / bioluminiscencia

Nicole Cecilia Delgado
Translated from the Spanish by Urayoán Noel

how does the body get to where the world
has told it not to travel?

Robin Myers

¿cómo llega el cuerpo a donde el mundo
le ha dicho que no viaje?

Robin Myers

Water of night, fired up sea, photovoltaic cell
we are. Cosmic creature that never figured out
its place in the universe. We're breathing in light
and tomorrow we too will shine.




Agua de la noche, mar prendido, célula fotovoltaica
somos. Criatura cósmica que no decidió nunca
su lugar en el universo. Estamos respirando luz
y mañana también nosotros brillaremos.




What does light sound like at night
and underwater?
what is the cry of a school of sardines?
how much does a skinny horse weigh?




¿Cómo suena la luz de la noche
y bajo el agua?
¿cómo grita una escuela de sardinas?
¿cuánto pesa un caballo flaco?




You, island sea, killer of language.
Island iguanas evolve differently.
Time of islands and stars.

Twisted song of memory,
who were we before daybreak?




Mar de las islas que matas el lenguaje.
Iguanas de las islas evolucionan distinto.
Tiempo de las islas y los astros.

Retorcida canción de la memoria,
¿quiénes éramos antes del amanecer?




Meteor shower in Monte Carmelo.


Avalanche of Perseids in Cayo Tierra.


Shoal of dinoflagellates in Esperanza.


The past and future
stare at each other and smile.




(2000): / Lluvia de estrellas en Monte Carmelo.
(2015): / Avalancha de Perseidas en Cayo Tierra.
(sin tiempo): / Cardumen dinoflagelado en Esperanza.
El pasado y el futuro / se están mirando y se sonríen.




                   incandescence / iridescence / bioluminescence

The Esperanza pier glows at night, that's why we dove off
Esperanza. All our bodies slathered in light, learning from
the maker of light. In the sea there are animals that carry
fire inside. Their name is unpronounceable. So we're simply
moons, iridescent skin, melting in a sea of light.




                   incandescencia / iridiscencia / bioluminiscencia

El muelle de Esperanza brilla de noche, por eso nos fuimos a tirar
de la Esperanza. Todo el cuerpo untado de luz, aprendiendo de
quien sabe hacer la luz. En el mar hay animales que llevan dentro
el fuego. Su nombre es impronunciable. Entonces somos simples
lunas, piel iridiscente, derretida en mar de luz.


Indicator for a different page.

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Nicole Cecilia Delgado is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and book artist. Her writing, often reviewed within the framework of ecofeminism and land art, explores the subtleties and contrasts of everyday Puerto Rican and Caribbean life, with an emphasis on place and territory. She recently published: A mano/By Hand, an autobiographical essay about independent publishing (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020), the bilingual poetry anthology Objetos encontrados/Found Objects (DoubleCross Press, 2021) and adjacent islands/islas adyacentes, which includes two of her artist books with new translations by Urayoán Noel. Through her studio La Impresora—which she founded in 2016 and co-directs with poet Amanda Hernández—, Delgado and her colleagues amplify the works of BIPOC artists and create a community around literature and independent books across Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. La Impresora received the Constellation Award from the Community of Literary Presses and Magazines in 2022.

Tom Sparks

Urayoán Noel is the author or translator of over 10 books, including the critical study In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (University of Iowa Press), winner of the LASA Latino Studies Book Prize and an MLA Honorable Mention; the poetry collection Transversal (University of Arizona Press), a New York Public Library Book of the Year and longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award; and, most recently, as translator, Nicole Cecilia Delgado’s adjacent islands/islas adyacentes. Noel has been a finalist for the National Translation Award and the Best Translated Book Award, and has been a fellow of the Ford Foundation, the Howard Foundation, the Schomburg Center, and Letras Boricuas (Mellon/Flamboyán), as well as a fellow and faculty at CantoMundo and the Macondo Writers Workshop. A resident of the Bronx, Urayoán Noel teaches at New York University and at Stetson University’s low-residency MFA of the Americas.

New York, New York

"Halfway between a life diary and a traveler’s notebook, Nicole Cecilia Delgado’s adjacent islands firmly establishes itself within the tradition of works that cannot be easily categorized. Using travel and exploration as methodology, the poet builds a personal and communal testimony of a territory marked by occupation, usurpation, and abandonment. The book is an intimate map that, like the constellations that decorate the sublime space between the islands, shines and reflects what the author rightly calls the piercing words of our struggle. That ceaseless struggle, which is the struggle against oblivion, resounds with courage and beauty in these poems that emerge pristine from the song of the deep sea, revealing all its secrets. Ecopoetry meets documentary poetry plus fieldwork as meditation as contemplation as activism equals the art book as art object as document as resistance. Hand in hand with a delicate and attentive translation by Urayoán Noel, tenderness, discipline, and survival emerge in these pages as a new holy trinity, ready to unfurl the twisted song of memory. adjacent islands is a graceful, courageous, and necessary reclamation, not only of a territory, but of our own history, of our very origins, those that no colonization will ever be able to take away from us."
—Carlos Soto Roman

"Nicole Cecilia Delgado's amoná and subtropical dry together weave a poetics of feet on the ground, of territory; they register that experimental time of the camping trip, where we so purposefully surrender ourselves to the sea, the cave, the path, in a type of temporary sensory community that carries all its questions on its back. These adjacent islands open a space for thinking from an embodied practice whose material is time. In this collection, that presumed "first man" could be our traveling companion, a first consciousness understanding itself as part of a cosmic mechanism; today between ceiba tree and anamú herb, tomorrow between asphalt and star. The words that name animals, fruits, coastal life forms, collectives of community struggle and walking bodies — all of them come together rallying in motion, under the sky, unprotected. This is a poetics that is susceptible to microclimates and to the words of the other, anchored in the accumulation of historical accidents, all of it interlocking in that special camping time that fine-tunes the senses. This book is a machine of cosmic times."
—Beatriz Santiago Muñoz

"In this bilingual edition, Nicole Delgado’s vivid poetry and Urayoán Noel’s deft translations transport us to Mona and Vieques in the Puerto Rican archipelago. Throughout, we witness the poet and her companions camp in these tropical spaces. While they sleep outside, swim naked, pick fruit, and watch the rising sun, they also confront the environmental wounds wrought by colonial militarism. Delgado’s words render their spiritual communion with islands as her community formed new kinships, saw the open sky and its constellations, and listened to the profound songs at the bottom of the sea."
—Craig Santos Perez

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.