David Huerta: 'Ayotzinapa,' translated into English by Mark Weiss

[On September 23rd 43 students of the teacher's college in Ayotzinapa, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, were detained by the police on the way to a protest, and handed over to a local drug cartel. They were tortured and killed, their bodies dismembered, dumped in a pit and incinerated. Mexico has been in turmoil since.


David Huerta is one of Mexico's most important poets. This poem is his reaction. (M.W.)]




We bite the shadow

And in the shadow

The dead appear

As lights and fruit

As beakers of blood

As rocks from the pit

As branches and leaves

Of tender viscera


The hands of the dead

Are drenched in anguish

And twisted gestures

In the shroud of the wind

They bring with them

An insatiable sorrow


This is the land of ditches

Ladies and gentlemen

The land of screams

The land of children in flame

The land of tortured women

The land that barely existed yesterday

And today where it was is forgotten


We are lost between puffs

Of hellish sulphur

And irresistable fires

Our eyes are open

And stuffed

With broken glass


We extend

Our living hands

To the dead and the disappeared

But they back away from us

With a gesture of infinite distance


The bread is burnt

The faces of life are uprooted

And burnt and there are no hands

Nor faces

Nor country


There's just a vibration

Thick with tears

A long howl

Where we have confused

The living with the dead


Whoever reads this must know

That they were cast into the sea of the smoke

Of cities

Like a sign of the broken spirit


Whoever reads this must also know

That in spite of all

The dead have neither gone

Nor been made to disappear


That the spell of the dead

Is in sunrise and spoon

In foot and cornfield

In sketches and river


We gave to this spell

The calm silver

Of the breeze


To our dead

To our youthful dead

We delivered the bread of the sky

The sprig of waters

The splendor of all sadness

The whiteness of our condemnation

The forgetting of the world

And the shattered memory

Of all that live


Now brothers

It's best to be silent

To open one's hands and mind

So as to harvest from the cursed land

The shards of hearts

Of all who are

And all

Who have been



David Huerta

November 2, 2014



[Originally published in Plume online at http://plumepoetry.com/2014/12/ayotzinapa/]