The Hour of the Children

Mexican author José Emilio Pacheco died on Sunday. He was 74. Here’s one of his poems, constructed with fantastic images of post-apocalyptic poverty and decay. Only the images are fantasy. The rest is real.

The children traffic in a new species of rats,
Ringed like lobsters and colored magenta and sky blue.
Strange flavor at first
But since hunger doesn’t lie
We grow used to baking them.

Since you are what you eat
In less than a year
We become like them.
First their panicked little eyes, fur and tail.
Then, quickly, teeth like drill bits,
Claws like a bone saw.
(Is it necessary to say that in this regard
They didn’t have to teach us much?)

Now the children who lived off the rats are men.
They operate like hit men contracted by an invisible power
And little by little but night after night
They eliminate us with gunshots.

– José Emilio Pacheco
(Translated by David Shook)

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