The Raised Fist

You are from the place where you pick up

the garbage.

Where two bolts of lightning

fall in the same place.

Because you saw the first,

you wait for the second.

And you’re still here.

Where the earth opens

and people come together.

You arrived late again:

You’re alive because you’re unpunctual,

because you didn’t go to the appointment

that death had prepared for you at 13:14,

thirty-two years after the other appointment, which

you didn’t arrive to on time either.

You are the missing victim.

The building swayed and

you didn’t see life pass

before your eyes, like it does

in movies.

A part of your body pained you

that you didn’t know existed:

The memory ingrained in your skin

didn’t recall the scenes

of your life, but of the animal within

that hears the creaks of the walls.

The water remembered as well

when it was the master of this place.

It shook in the rivers.

It shook in the houses that we

built over the rivers.

You picked up from the books of another

time, one that you were a long time ago before

these pages.

It never rained but it poured

after the festivities

of the motherland,

that more resembled revelry than greatness.

Is there room for more heroes in September?

You are afraid.

You have the courage to be afraid.

You don’t know what to do,

but you do something.

You didn’t found the city

nor defend it from invaders.

You are, if anything, a beggar

of history.

The one who picks up the pieces

after the tragedy.

The one who picks up the bricks,

gathers the stones,

finds a comb,

two shoes that don’t make a pair,

a wallet with photographs.

The one who puts loose parts together,

pieces of pieces,

remnants, only remnants,

whatever fits in your hands.

The one who doesn’t have gloves.

The one who hands out water.

The one who gives away his medicine

because he’s already cured of his horror.

The one who saw the moon and

dreamt strange things, but

didn’t know how to interpret them.

The one who heard her cat meow

half an hour before but only

understood it with the first

tremor when water came out of the toilet.

The one who prayed in a strange language

because he forgot how to pray.

The one who remembered who was at which place.

The one who picked up her kids at school.

The one who thought of those who had kids at school.

The one who ran out of battery.

The one who went out to lend his phone.

The one who entered an abandoned shop to steal

but repented it later

at a collection center.

The one who knew what there was too much of.

The one who was awake so the others could sleep.

The one who is from here.

The one who just arrived

but is from here now.

The one who says “city” by saying

you and I and Pedro and Marta

and Francisco and Guadalupe.

The one who has been without electricity

or water for two days.

The one who’s still breathing.

The one who raises his fist

to ask for silence.

The ones who obeyed.

The ones who raised their fists.

The ones who raised their fists

to listen if someone was still alive.

The ones who raised their fists

to listen if someone

was still alive and heard

a murmur.

The ones who don’t stop listening.


English translation of a poem by Juan Villoro about the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck central Mexico on September 19 killing hundreds and leaving behind countless destruction.  It was 32 years to the day since the 1985 earthquake that killed an estimated 10,000 people.

In the wake of the tragedy, the response of ordinary people and solidarity shown with victims has been nothing short of remarkable.

Read the original version in Spanish that was published on September 22 in the newspaper Reforma here.  

Peter W Davies

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