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 jornada del muerto

 jornada del muerto (journey of the dead man)

  “no one pays attention to these killings, but the secret of the world is
     hidden in them”.               (R. Bolano, 2666)


Ciudad Juarez:

Beneath a kettle of vulture eyes

slowly circiling, spiraling down,

the city is an open wound.

Paused along trash strewn curbs

faces desert strife erodes,

strafes with unrelenting candor

raise brown knots of flesh and bone,

hollow sockets skyward,

miming pale novenas

in the broken house of god.

Forsaken factory peons, whose death is Mexico;

who press gaunt hands

to ears that cannot fathom sound,

seperate the moan of pealing church bells

from the screech of lawless federale sirens

in search of fresh road kill.

Victims of the Smoking Mirror, Tezcatlipoca,

ancient god of conflict

guardian of the fifth sun

whose light unravels the lives it mends

as lost souls wander naked through apocalypse

cry out to Pancho Villa, Emilio Zapata

Cesarea Tinajero to no avail.


In the wake of death’s tarantula

lives lose focus, dream’s go slack

insomniac dread

burns down like hand rolled cigarettes

on the lips of toothless gauchos

filling the misbegotten with inconsolable alarm.


Each evening, jaguar

rips fading sun from retreating heaven

devours its fiery heart

drenching horizon’s altar with sacrifical blood.


Each night a cosmos of luminious archers

disguised as nebula stars

hurtle fiery missiles earthward

piercing the blackened heaven

above mescal hombres in snake skin boots

who scour desert shadowland

hiss at every step, list with venom

speak reptilian, dream iguana…

steadly drift north.


Beneath Sonoran nightscape

something vile breathes, breeds

repeats its awful cadance, heartbeat;

jaguar with obsidian teeth, whose skin is fog

eye’s bright blinding opals, shapeshift headlamps

winding down from a secret lair


becoming sleek sedans, metallic sorcerer’s dogs

grouped in muderous camaraderie

circling barrio enclaves, bleak maquiladoras

ravenous for prey, errant gold…

a-bombs, black cadillacs, marathons, cyclones, baby T

ecstasy, red Acapulco.

The soul’s of dark winged nightingales

whose naked breasts, supple loins

feather bloodsoaked stone.

Careful to avoid the mesquite thorns

that line each twisted street, to ward off evil spirits,

vampires, Aztec priests, shoeless misioneros

plagued with martyred visions of Santa Teresa.


In Chihuahua, poisoned manna

falls from a bleak fangoso sky

covering barren fields,

tumescent zones of peculiar silence

with severed hands and feet.

Food for Mexico City philosophers;

seeds for armageddon, mixed with cactus,

tainted semen.


Under cover of night invisible cartels rise,

ascend through clefts in the earth;

crude revulsions midnight hones,

fills with lewd delusions;

voracious scorpions swarming over morbid landscape

in search of anything edible.


Four hundred ravaged bodies

strewn across Juarez, strewn across the decades

just south of El Paso, the dividing Rio Grande.

Nameless victims, cut down in brutal femicide.

Each innocence shattered,

shadowed by mayhem, debauchery, rape;

monstrous image of a young girl’s belly split in two

stuffed with stones and her own small heart

or a bloated corpse without arms and legs…

impossible to forget as the beheading of a child,

frenzied hornets on an infant’s face.


Each corpse the broken mouth of a yellow sparrow

buried in burning sand,

haunted thermal of sadness, mourning desert sings to ruthless sun

beyond the outer reaches of Juarez

where too, each dawn

the coo’s of eave hidden doves mix with rustling leaves

the electric thrum of hummingbird wings

hovering madonna/geishas

immersing Santa Teresa in subliminal sound, memorial chorus.

The aftermath of horrific dreams

haunting the city whose kinetic portal,

crude esophagus, swallows light.


Just outside that part of the world

occupied by the festering wound

bearing the name already repeated beyond endurance…

fields of gaseous bladders, plastic vomit

food scraps, pulp, pottery shards, splintered

wood, gypsum, glass… human bone.

Great stretches of endless waste

slowly cook beneath the sun.


The rotten flowers of mankind’s inexorable advance

to the edge of yet another abyss,

vanishing point


where jaguar softly purring…  waits.


By NEIL BROSNAN: jornada del muerto

                     This is a long poem I wrote a number of years ago after first following the story on my own as it slowly emerged in short, third and fourth page newspaper stories, and then reading the novel 2666 by Roberto Bolano, where part of his plot covers the phenomena.

It had (has) to do with the rapes and murders of women starting sometime back I believe in the mid nineties that were never solved outside of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (Bolano refers to Juarez as Santa Teresa in the novel… I use both in the poem).

The poem has a lot of dark imagery I play around with a bit: Cesarea Tinajero for instance, (at the end of the first stanza) is in fact a fictional character (a renowned poet) from Bolano’s, Savage Detectives. Tezcatlipoca is an Aztec deity whose spirit animal is Jaguar. He carries a mirror made of obsidian (the jaguar’s teeth in my version) and his iconic image is of fog hovering over water (the jaguar’s body in my version).

Because of the horrific number of rape/murders the ongoing incident has been given its own specific identification by the World Health Association, Femicide or Feminicide. (Perhaps you are already familiar with all of this).

In any case, the title refers to a route in New Mexico with an interesting inquisition story behind it (you can google). I’ve taken the liberty to lift it and have employed it to try and capture the depravity of those drugged out cartel pieces of shit that swarm like moths around opportunities blood soaked candle.

Sonora and Chihuahua are Mexican States that are close to Ciudad Juarez.

Maquiladoras are American factories (sweat shops) in Juarez.

The drugs are the drugs…  N