Javier Peñalosa M.’s What Comes Back is a procession, a journey, a search for a body of water that has disappeared. Featured in separate sections, original Spanish poems and Robin Myers’s English translations highlight tender ruminations on loss, memory, and communion. Just as landscapes witness and “preserve what happens along the length of them,” so do people. We watch as travelers navigate realms between the living and the dead, past mountains and dried-up rivers to map, trace, and remember the past and future. Several sections, each bearing the title “What Comes Back,” guide readers on a looping voyage where they are “orbited around the gravity of what had come to be”: the absence of Mexico City’s rivers and other absences wrought by war, climate change, and forced migration. What remains is a desire to name the missing, to wrest belonging from dispossession, endurance from erasure. Rattled between ecological destruction and human violence, the spirit pushes on toward connection and community.
They’d wake with the slowness of animals. They’d have touch
and breath, skin in the early mornings. The nape of her neck was
a den of dark threads at first light. And the music would come
from nowhere to find her voice and her body’s soft movement in
These were the ripe apples we didn’t gather from the ground.