The Birds

José Emilio Pacheco

My earliest memory of Veracruz

is that heavy groundswell:

black birds that seemed to carry night on their wings

“They’re called pichos,” someone told me

They must have been starlings or grackles, or of that feather

The name, though, doesn’t matter: what I remember

is the dark garrulousness, the fear,

the mysterious randomness of the way in which the birds,

like giant worms or locusts, obscured the trees.

They fell like meteorites from cornices and power lines

an unarmed throng attempting vainly to stem the tide of



The twilight, suffocated, faded and died

ashes of a lifeless fire


       high in the branches

The sky itself was a dark bird

as unexpectedly silence settled in the air

We checked into

       the hotel after the long journey

My grandfather

       bought the Mexico City newspaper

He read me the news of that bomb

of that place with the strange, faraway name

of that death that descended like the night and the birds,

of those living bodies snuffed out in the flames




Pacheco, José Emilio. "The Birds." An Ark for the Next Millennium: Poems. Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993. p. 39.

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