The Hunt for the Red Jaguar

Homero Aridjis

To Chloe and Eva Sophia


We tracked the jaguar all night.

Now and then, he paused to observe us

with the eyes of a drunken sun. Elusive.

When we closed in, he was gone.


We went after him as in pursuit of a myth.

All the animals had died,

those not dead had been caged.

We were only missing the red jaguar.


We set out in pursuit of him at nightfall.

We lit up his face in the fastness.

The preyed-upon predator, we identified him

by the black spots on his solar coat.


Us, we burned copal,

set traps in his path.

We danced his dance

in feline face-masks.


We summoned serpents

out of myth and history,

those who pour phantoms from their maws

into the land of the living.


His amber yellow eyes

never stopped staring

through the bushes at

our eyes besotted with greed.


We raved out loud,

we had projects on hand,

a hotel to be built here, a golf course there,

a road, a discotheque.


Walking on the k’an che,

those stones that talk in the night,

we heard his deep-voiced

growls, the roars.


Along the macheted trail

the white dogs barked at him

under the dried-up tree

where he was perched


We went after him as far as the Cave.

In its labyrinth of entrances and exits

he lost us. Navigator of the nothing,

down the underground river he sailed on a log.


We hunted him through woodland and savannah,

through mangrove and mountain. His soul

traveled through the Milky Way. From the fangs

of the Plumed Serpent, Venus hung like a pearl.


He called upon his ancestral gods in the savannah,

howling at the death of the Jungle,

the Animals and Trees

in the Era of Extinction.


Yellow with light the old Tree

of the World was not far off.

With its necklace of mirrors and jade

was the Serpent conceived in the sea.


At the site of the Black Dream

the opened sarcophagus clanged,

out of it spirits emerge

talking like you and I.


“He’s going to come down here, the shadow

is leaping at us,” said the hunter.

But he did not come down, for the Jaguar god

went home to his throne of black stone in Chichén



There, while gorging on his prey,

we took him. We transferred him to a zoo.

Along all the spillways of noise

streams of cars tore down on us


The provoker of eclipses,

Lord of the Starry Night,

the Jaguar god, now

clapped into a cage.




Aridjis, Homero. “The Hunt For The Red Jaguar.” Poemas solares: Solar Poems. Trans. George McWhirter. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2010. pp. 55-61.

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