This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Ricardo Maldonado. Read the Spanish version of “Habemus Lux” here


Habemus Lux

“I was afraid. I looked out the window and I saw a cat swimming,” Ismael said. — in “The image of our poverty,” Primera Hora, Puerto Rico: 9/26/17

And then there was light, and the cats bathed because there was light to bathe under. And washing machines and ice factories, because the light was noble. And the cats were fecund, filling the waters with little sausage cans and empty water bottles. And there was power at the grocery stores, power at the tolls, power at the Costco, power at the shopping mall, power at the filling stations, power at the outlet stores. And all the fixtures in children’s bedrooms shone bright in a paradise, because there was light in the darkness. And it was late, and it was morning for all luminaries, because it was the Eleventh Month.

This is the book for the generations of cats. These are the generations that will serve them: they were Abram’s cats; Agar gave birth to her cats, but the cats were afraid, because they were naked in the darkness. Cats facing trees; cats wearied by the cold; cats in the rubble; cats roofing again; 1 cheese slice for a cat’s breakfast.

And one cat said: it’s not good that the cats be alone; I will help them, and she took flesh from her rib and closed the wound in that place to make something of it. And Cat begat according to her image, and named her Light—and as Cat named her, that was her name, Light, because she was noble: Light in the Morning; Light in the Darkness; Bloom, Light, Alum-Bright! And that’s what Cat had done in a great way.

The days of Cat after begetting Light were four thousand six hundred and forty-five. And the total number of days that the cats lived was four thousand six hundred and forty-five when flowers bloomed in an orange burst. And it was late for the cats, cats in the darkness, cats in the morning—One Day.


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