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Poetry

Notes on a Zombie Cataclysm

By Luis Felipe Fabre
Translated from Spanish by Amanda Hopkinson
This satirical poem uses a zombie apocalypse as a metaphor for Mexico's drug wars.

(Opening Song)

Hey, sweetheart, don’t go
picnicking in the cemetery:
don’t go
drinking in the cemetery:
don’t go doing drugs in the cemetery:
don’t dress and make up like a Goth
tonight.

Because things
are turning weird: because they found
just the arm
while the rest of the body remains a mystery;
because they found
just the ear
of another mystery
and teeth from the devil knows whose smile;
because things are turning hardcore:
hey, honey, listen
to this idiot ditty: don’t go
dancing in the cemetery:
don’t go dancing
in the cemetery: don’t go
dancing in the cemetery: stay here with me
tonight.
***
A hand emerging from a grave
the hand of a corpse that in the end proves to be undead
or not quite dead: merely putrified:
the hand of a zombie:
the hand that emerges at the end of the film
to proclaim that the end is not the end:
there’s going to be a second episode
the hand
that sprouted from the earth
like a monstrous flower
from a pit hidden away in the north of Mexico.
But nobody noticed the hand
and if anyone did they weren’t telling
and if they did tell nobody believed them
and if anyone did believe them
they believed them too late:
there are now forty thousand zombies laying waste to Mexico
according to official statistics.
A  hand twitching like laughter off:
vengeance will be terrible!
1
Zombies: cannibal corpses.
2
Zombies: the insomniac dead.
. . .
5
Zombies: a new opportunity
for the government
to demonstrate its uselessness and corruption.
6
Zombies: a new opportunity
for society to demonstrate
its complicity and corruption.
7
Zombies: the decay of the social fabric personified.
8
Zombies:
the post-mortem persistence of hunger and poverty
advancing upon you.
***
They say
the zombies
are a ploy of drug traffickers
to terrorize the government. They say
zombies are a government ploy to terrorize
the population. They say the zombies are a ploy
of the population to terrorize the drug traffickers. They say
zombies are a government ploy
to terrorize the government. They say
the zombies are a ploy
of the drug trafficker
to
terrorize
the population. They say that
zombies are a ploy of drug traffickers to
terrorize the drug trafficker. They say the zombies are a ploy
of the population to terrorize the government. And you, what do you have to say about zombies?
Wise up: listen to Radio Mictlán:
to their live
transmission of
the insurrection of the dead.
***
1
The authorities call on the people
to remain calm.
2
The authorities call on the people
to stay in their homes.
3
The authorities insist they are taking
appropriate steps
to control the plague of zombies.
4
It is 4 am: light escapes from windows
televisions and computers of every Mexican
remain lit like lanterns
devotional lamps that are a sleepless prayer
for the night of the zombies to end.
5
Citizen men and women: if you suspect
that a neighbor, friend or family member has caught
the zombie contagion
report them at once on any of the emergency phone lines:
Mexico requires your cooperation.
6
Zombies on the streets
Zombies in the offices.
Zombies in the shopping mall.
Zombies on the subway.
Zombies in the parks.
Zombies on the roof terraces.
Zombies in the basement flat.
7
Important information:
Hawaiian dance classes have been suspended
Until further notice.
8
Strip-tease leprosy-style: surprise—there’s nothing there!
No flesh, blood, innards, bones: nothing.
***
1
“We are all zombies”: emblazoned
On T-shirts, graffiti, stencils, placards.
2
For you, for I, for we
may turn into zombies
defend the zombies and defend your future.

© Luis Felipe Fabre. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Amanda Hopkinson. All rights reserved.
Read About Bios Context Explore Teaching Ideas

(Opening Song)

Hey, sweetheart, don’t go
picnicking in the cemetery:
don’t go
drinking in the cemetery:
don’t go doing drugs in the cemetery:
don’t dress and make up like a Goth
tonight.

Because things
are turning weird: because they found
just the arm
while the rest of the body remains a mystery;
because they found
just the ear
of another mystery
and teeth from the devil knows whose smile;
because things are turning hardcore:
hey, honey, listen
to this idiot ditty: don’t go
dancing in the cemetery:
don’t go dancing
in the cemetery: don’t go
dancing in the cemetery: stay here with me
tonight.
***
A hand emerging from a grave
the hand of a corpse that in the end proves to be undead
or not quite dead: merely putrified:
the hand of a zombie:
the hand that emerges at the end of the film
to proclaim that the end is not the end:
there’s going to be a second episode
the hand
that sprouted from the earth
like a monstrous flower
from a pit hidden away in the north of Mexico.
But nobody noticed the hand
and if anyone did they weren’t telling
and if they did tell nobody believed them
and if anyone did believe them
they believed them too late:
there are now forty thousand zombies laying waste to Mexico
according to official statistics.
A  hand twitching like laughter off:
vengeance will be terrible!
1
Zombies: cannibal corpses.
2
Zombies: the insomniac dead.
. . .
5
Zombies: a new opportunity
for the government
to demonstrate its uselessness and corruption.
6
Zombies: a new opportunity
for society to demonstrate
its complicity and corruption.
7
Zombies: the decay of the social fabric personified.
8
Zombies:
the post-mortem persistence of hunger and poverty
advancing upon you.
***
They say
the zombies
are a ploy of drug traffickers
to terrorize the government. They say
zombies are a government ploy to terrorize
the population. They say the zombies are a ploy
of the population to terrorize the drug traffickers. They say
zombies are a government ploy
to terrorize the government. They say
the zombies are a ploy
of the drug trafficker
to
terrorize
the population. They say that
zombies are a ploy of drug traffickers to
terrorize the drug trafficker. They say the zombies are a ploy
of the population to terrorize the government. And you, what do you have to say about zombies?
Wise up: listen to Radio Mictlán:
to their live
transmission of
the insurrection of the dead.
***
1
The authorities call on the people
to remain calm.
2
The authorities call on the people
to stay in their homes.
3
The authorities insist they are taking
appropriate steps
to control the plague of zombies.
4
It is 4 am: light escapes from windows
televisions and computers of every Mexican
remain lit like lanterns
devotional lamps that are a sleepless prayer
for the night of the zombies to end.
5
Citizen men and women: if you suspect
that a neighbor, friend or family member has caught
the zombie contagion
report them at once on any of the emergency phone lines:
Mexico requires your cooperation.
6
Zombies on the streets
Zombies in the offices.
Zombies in the shopping mall.
Zombies on the subway.
Zombies in the parks.
Zombies on the roof terraces.
Zombies in the basement flat.
7
Important information:
Hawaiian dance classes have been suspended
Until further notice.
8
Strip-tease leprosy-style: surprise—there’s nothing there!
No flesh, blood, innards, bones: nothing.
***
1
“We are all zombies”: emblazoned
On T-shirts, graffiti, stencils, placards.
2
For you, for I, for we
may turn into zombies
defend the zombies and defend your future.

© Luis Felipe Fabre. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Amanda Hopkinson. All rights reserved.
Definitions

Radio Mictlán: In Aztec mythology, Mictlán is the underworld.

Luis Felipe Fabre

Author Luis Felipe FabreLuis Felipe Fabre (1974) is a poet and critic based in Mexico City. His publications include the volume of essays Leyendo agujeros. Ensayos sobre (des)escritura, antiescritura y no escritura, and the poetry collections Cabaret Provenza, La sodomía en la Nueva España, and Poemas de terror y de misterio. He is the editor of two anthologies of contemporary Mexican poetry, Divino Tesoro and La Edad de Oro, and Arte & Basura, an anthology of Mario Santiago Papasquiaro’s poetry. He has been curator of the Poesía en Voz Alta Festival and Todos los originales serán destruídos, an exhibition of contemporary art made by poets.

Amanda Hopkinson

Amanda Hopkins is a visiting professor at City University London and Manchester University. Previously she was professor of literary translation and director of the British Centre for Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia. She translates from Spanish, Portuguese, and French, focusing mainly on contemporary fiction from Latin America. Her translations include Dead Horsemeat by Dominique Manotti (cotranslated with Ros Schwartz, Arcadia 2006); Money to Burn by Ricardo Piglia (Granta, 2003), Paulo Coelho’s Devil and Miss Prym (HarperCollins, 2002), and transcripts for her monographs on the Latin American photographers Martin Chambi (Phaidon, 2001) and Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Phaidon, 2002). She is currently writing A History of Mexican Photography (Reaktion Books, forthcoming), and cotranslating Rodolfo Fogwill’s Los Pichiciegos with Nick Caistor (Serpent’s Tail, forthcoming).

Drug-Trafficking in Mexico

For more background on the drug wars, read the L.A. Times feature “Mexico Under Siege: The Drug Wars at our Doorstep,” look through photo galleries from The Atlantic and Time magazines (warning: graphic images), or watch the 8-minute video: Mexico’s Drug War, from the Council on Foreign Relations.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

For another journalistic perspective on the drug wars, read “Violence and Drug-Trafficking in Mexico,” also on WWB Campus. Or, find out about recent events in the drug wars, browse the subject pages on Reuters and the New York Times online.

Get some “Fast Facts” and a timeline of the drug wars from CNN, and then find answers to common questions about the drug wars from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Artists Respond to the Drug Wars

For an artist’s response to the drug wars, watch the 3-minute video “Baroque on the Border,” about Rigoberto Gonzalez.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Listen to a narco-ballad, a song about Mexico’s drug culture: “The Compassionate Assassin,” by Shaka. You may notice that there are some structural similarities to Fabre’s poem, although the meanings are completely different.

(Listen to the song on YouTube.)

Conspiracy Theories and Violent Ties

There are some parallels between the poem’s “zombie apocalypse” and real-life aspects of the drug wars; read about them below.

More from Luis Felip Fabre

“First of all, I’m not a translator…”

Nonetheless, poet Luis Felip Fabre’s Spanish-language version of Zoe Leonard’s manifesto-poem, “I want a president,” played an important role in Mexico’s 2018 elections. Find out how in this article from hyperallergic, and then watch one of the many collective readings of the poem below.

(Watch on YouTube.)

Watch an interview and readings with poet Luis Felipe Fabre: “Hello Poppy Covered Road.” In the beginning, he reads his “anti-charro poem”—a charro is a traditional Mexican horseman.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

For a different piece by Luis Felipe Fabre, read “Sor Juana and Other Monsters,” published in Words Without Borders, or read his the full book Sor Juana and Other Monsters. Find more work in Spanish by Luis Felipe Fabre here.

More from Amanda Hopkinson

Read other translations by Amanda Hopkinson, published in Words Without Borders.

More about the Drug Wars

To find out about the drug wars in the 1990s, read interviews with traffickers and law-enforcement agents in Frontline’s Drug Warriors series, or Charles Bowden’s book Juárez, The Laboratory of Our Future.

Then read this New York Times op-ed about what can be done to stop the disproportionate effect of violent drug raids on Black and Indigenous people in Latin America.

Learn about artist Tochiro Gallegos’ photo-portraits, which metaphorically depict the violence of the drug wars. A New York Times photo-essay quotes Gallegos’ explanation of the belts of bullets across some of his subjects’ mouths: “a way to express everything we see, the way that we have to be quiet.” Read the entire essay, and see images of artists and their work: “A Vale of Terror, Transcended.

Then watch former President Bill Clinton speak about the role of the US in the Mexican drug wars, in which he told Mexican students and business leaders, “I wish you had no narco-trafficking, but it’s really not your fault.” Then, read an article about the speech.

Youth and the Drug Wars

Look through the pictures in “Through Children’s Eyes,” a BBC Mundo series that shared children’s art depicting the drug wars.

Then, read about young adults targeted by the drug wars in Francisco Goldman’s unit introduction and the A.P. article “Thousands Protest Brutal Killings of 3 Mexican Film Students.” Organizers of the April 26, 2018 march said: “Our dreams and our voices will not be dissolved in acid.”

Icons and Art from the Drug Wars

“In Mexico, the harsh realities of daily life have elevated unholy saints, who now stand beside traditional icons.” See the new “unholy saints” in the National Geographic photo-essay “Troubled Spirits,” or listen to an NPR story on Saint Death, a favorite of working-class Mexicans and patron saint of drug traffickers.

For a poet’s perspective on the drug wars, read A Report from Hell, Carmen Boullosa’s introduction to Words Without Borders‘ Drug Wars issue. For another literary perspective, read Cecilia Balli’s essay on Juárez, “City of Death, City of Hope” (available in both Spanish and English).

Zombie as Muse

For an American poet’s exploration of zombies-as-metaphor, read Josh Bell’s “Zombie Sunday.” And for a Russian designer’s take, look at the Max Degtyarev’s detailed illustrations, “Among the Zombies.”

Key Notes
1. Music and Noise
2. Playing With Horror Movie Clichés in Poetry
To access these Teaching Ideas, please register or login to WWB-Campus.
English Spanish

(Opening Song)

Hey, sweetheart, don’t go
picnicking in the cemetery:
don’t go
drinking in the cemetery:
don’t go doing drugs in the cemetery:
don’t dress and make up like a Goth
tonight.

Because things
are turning weird: because they found
just the arm
while the rest of the body remains a mystery;
because they found
just the ear
of another mystery
and teeth from the devil knows whose smile;
because things are turning hardcore:
hey, honey, listen
to this idiot ditty: don’t go
dancing in the cemetery:
don’t go dancing
in the cemetery: don’t go
dancing in the cemetery: stay here with me
tonight.
***
A hand emerging from a grave
the hand of a corpse that in the end proves to be undead
or not quite dead: merely putrified:
the hand of a zombie:
the hand that emerges at the end of the film
to proclaim that the end is not the end:
there’s going to be a second episode
the hand
that sprouted from the earth
like a monstrous flower
from a pit hidden away in the north of Mexico.
But nobody noticed the hand
and if anyone did they weren’t telling
and if they did tell nobody believed them
and if anyone did believe them
they believed them too late:
there are now forty thousand zombies laying waste to Mexico
according to official statistics.
A  hand twitching like laughter off:
vengeance will be terrible!
1
Zombies: cannibal corpses.
2
Zombies: the insomniac dead.
. . .
5
Zombies: a new opportunity
for the government
to demonstrate its uselessness and corruption.
6
Zombies: a new opportunity
for society to demonstrate
its complicity and corruption.
7
Zombies: the decay of the social fabric personified.
8
Zombies:
the post-mortem persistence of hunger and poverty
advancing upon you.
***
They say
the zombies
are a ploy of drug traffickers
to terrorize the government. They say
zombies are a government ploy to terrorize
the population. They say the zombies are a ploy
of the population to terrorize the drug traffickers. They say
zombies are a government ploy
to terrorize the government. They say
the zombies are a ploy
of the drug trafficker
to
terrorize
the population. They say that
zombies are a ploy of drug traffickers to
terrorize the drug trafficker. They say the zombies are a ploy
of the population to terrorize the government. And you, what do you have to say about zombies?
Wise up: listen to Radio Mictlán:
to their live
transmission of
the insurrection of the dead.
***
1
The authorities call on the people
to remain calm.
2
The authorities call on the people
to stay in their homes.
3
The authorities insist they are taking
appropriate steps
to control the plague of zombies.
4
It is 4 am: light escapes from windows
televisions and computers of every Mexican
remain lit like lanterns
devotional lamps that are a sleepless prayer
for the night of the zombies to end.
5
Citizen men and women: if you suspect
that a neighbor, friend or family member has caught
the zombie contagion
report them at once on any of the emergency phone lines:
Mexico requires your cooperation.
6
Zombies on the streets
Zombies in the offices.
Zombies in the shopping mall.
Zombies on the subway.
Zombies in the parks.
Zombies on the roof terraces.
Zombies in the basement flat.
7
Important information:
Hawaiian dance classes have been suspended
Until further notice.
8
Strip-tease leprosy-style: surprise—there’s nothing there!
No flesh, blood, innards, bones: nothing.
***
1
“We are all zombies”: emblazoned
On T-shirts, graffiti, stencils, placards.
2
For you, for I, for we
may turn into zombies
defend the zombies and defend your future.

© Luis Felipe Fabre. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Amanda Hopkinson. All rights reserved.

Notas en torno a la catástrofe zombi

*
(Opening song)
Hey, sweetheart, no vayas
de picnic al cementerio:
no vayas
a beber al cementerio:
no vayas a drogarte al cementerio:
no te hagas la gótica
esta noche.
Porque las cosas
se están poniendo raras; porque encontraron
un brazo
y el resto de ese cuerpo es un misterio;
porque encontraron
la oreja
de otro misterio
y los dientes de sepa el diablo qué sonrisa;
porque las cosas se están poniendo hardcore:
hey, honey, escucha
esta cancioncita idiota: no vayas
a bailar al cementerio:
no vayas a bailar 
al cementerio: no vayas
a bailar al cementerio: quédate conmigo
esta noche.
***
Una mano saliendo de una tumba:
la mano del muerto que al final resulta que no está muerto
o no tan muerto: solo putrefacto:
la mano del zombi:
la mano que sale al final de la película
para anunciar que el final no es el final:
habrá segunda parte.
Así
la mano
que brotó de la tierra
como una flor monstruosa
en una fosa clandestina al norte de México. 
Pero a esa mano nadie la vio
y si alguien la vio no lo dijo
y si lo dijo no le creyeron
y si le creyeron 
le creyeron demasiado tarde:
ahora cuarenta mil zombis asolan a México
según cifras oficiales.
Una mano crispada como una risa en off:
¡la venganza será terrible!
***
1
Los zombis: cadáveres caníbales.
2
Los zombis: muertos insomnes.
. . .
5
Los zombis: una nueva oportunidad
para que el gobierno
demuestre su ineficacia y corrupción.
6
Los zombis: una nueva oportunidad
para que la sociedad demuestre
su complicidad y corrupción.
7
Los zombis: la descomposición del tejido social en persona.
8
Los zombis:
la persistencia postmortem del hambre y la miseria
avanzando hacia ti.
***
Dicen
que los zombis
son una estrategia del narco
para aterrorizar al gobierno. Dicen que
los zombis son una estrategia del gobierno para aterrorizar
a la población. Dicen que los zombis son una estrategia
de la población para aterrorizar al narco. Dicen
que los zombis son una estrategia del gobierno
para aterrorizar al gobierno. Dicen
que los zombis son una estrategia
del narco
para
aterrorizar
a la población. Dicen que
los zombis son una estrategia del narco para
aterrorizar al narco. Dicen que los zombis son una estrategia
de la población para aterrorizar al gobierno. Y tú, ¿qué dices de los zombis?
Infórmate: escucha Radio Mictlán:
transmitiendo
en vivo
la insurrección de los muertos.
***
1
Las autoridades hacen un llamado a la población
a mantener la calma.
2
Las autoridades hacen un llamado a la población
a permanecer en sus hogares.
3
Las autoridades aseguran que se están tomando
las medidas pertinentes
para controlar la plaga zombi.
4
Son las 4:00 AM: la luz sale por las ventanas:
las televisiones y la computadoras de todos los mexicanos
permanecen encendidas como veladoras:
lámparas devotas que son una plegaria insomne
para que la noche de los zombis termine.
5
Ciudadana, ciudadano: si sospechas
que un vecino, amigo o familiar ha sufrido
un contagio zombi
repórtalo de inmediato a cualquiera de los números de emergencia:
México necesita de tu cooperación.
6
Zombis en las calles.
Zombis en las oficinas.
Zombis en el centro comercial.
Zombis en el metro.
Zombis en los parques.
Zombis en las azoteas.
Zombis en el departamento de abajo.
7
Información importante:
Las clases de baile hawaiano se suspenden
hasta nuevo aviso.
***
8
Un streaptease a la manera de la lepra: ¡sorpresa: no hay nada!:
carne, sangre, vísceras, huesos: nada.
***
1
“Todos somos zombis”: proclaman
camisetas, graffitis, esténciles, pancartas.
2
Porque tú, porque yo, porque nosotros
podemos convertirnos en zombis
defiende a los zombis: defiende tu futuro.

© Luis Felipe Fabre.

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