Daughters of Juarez

March 17, 2010

While the primary focus of this blog is the transformational power of grief and loss — and the mysterious beauty and grace we may discover at the heart of deep sorrow — this is a journey that usually begins with profound, unadulterated suffering.  I would simply be using spirituality as an excuse for “checking out” if I were to deny the real anguish that many of us experience in the face of tragedy.

I wrote the following piece for an upcoming event that has been organized to raise awareness about the hundreds of young, poor, dark-skinned women who have been abducted, raped, tortured and murdered in Ciudad Juarez since 1993.  Please forgive the graphic horror depicted here.  I have chosen to speak from the perspective of a fictional mother of a murdered maquiladora (factory worker).  Sadly, I am able to identify with the impossible task of having to identify the body of one’s child.  I know that some of you have also had this experience, and I bow to you.

Broken Light

The bus pulls into Ciudad Juarez

just as the sun touches the tops of the maquilas

and spills into the filthy factory windows

where my baby ran away to work for the pendejos.

Sunlight like blood.

Like her blood

which I can’t stop seeing whenever I close my eyes.

Flowing from her lips,

her wrists,

from between her torn apart legs.

Blood flowing into the silent desert,

nourishing nothing.

So I try not to close my eyes.

But they accidentally drifted shut on the bus last night

somewhere between mi pueblo in San Luis Potosi

and this borderland of screaming ghost girls,

this infierno that tears and chews and gulps our daughters,

that swallowed my girl,

mi Lucia,

light of her father’s broken heart.

Broken light.

Body broken like a pinata.

Like a glass bottle.

Like the yolk of an egg.

I can’t do this.

I cannot fucking do this.

No one could possibly expect a mother

to identify the body of her child.

I got the message yesterday

as I was plucking the needles from a basket of nopal.

Nopal is good for the diabetes,

which I think I have.

As if it mattered now.

I returned their call

from the phone office next to the parque.

They warned me:


partial decomposition;

anguish carved into her dead face.

I practice picturing these things.

While her father slips into a cerveza coma

I board the bus and imagine her unraveling.

Her long hair yanked and severed.

A nipple bitten off.

Cigarette burns on her neck and eyelids.

A man grunting like a cochino.

Two others laughing.

One more turns away, maybe,

and pukes in the Sonoran night.

There is no one to meet me

when I climb down from the bus.

My knees buckle and I stumble.

Swiftly, I regain my balance,

restore my dignity,

smooth my long braids

which have been suddenly shot with silver

in the weeks since Lucia disappeared.

I shift my satchel across one breast

and unfold for the hundredth time

the sheet of graph paper

with directions to the city morgue.

I begin walking.

Duermete mi nina.

Duermete mi sol.

Duermete pedazo

de mi corazon.

Mirabai Starr



4 Responses to “Daughters of Juarez”

  1. Doug said

    Thank you for a potent and beautiful poem. When I first opened it last night my first thought was I was not in the “mood” to read of others suffering, so I got back to it this morning. I recognized the mood, then felt guilty about having it (then felt guilty about feeling guilty, and so forth), and realized a mood, or our judgments, or simply physical separation, are all things that keep us from the moment and others suffering to begin with; or even acting in a way that might actually relieve others suffering, a seemingly chronic human condition for many of us.
    Part of why I write is to thank you for reminding us the type of sobering suffering others experience and also reminding me the need to understand the transformational aspects of grief again, if I have the courage to go there. I wrote once “compassion is the natural response to seeing clearly”, and your poem certainly evokes that. It also evokes in me a deep desire to sit in silence and simply experience another’s suffering, opening up to it at a soul level. Perhaps part of the transformational power of grief lies in a cycle that starts with our willingness to experience it to begin with, followed by the power of the experience and then later by the need to reflect and share that experience in some form with others. Whether it is in a poem, song, dance or some other expression…..
    How many times have we heard from spiritual teachers the need for self sacrifice and suffering as the way to God and an awareness of others suffering. This reflects on the earlier point that it is hard to help others when we do not allow ourselves to be aware of their suffering to begin with. As one teacher I know wrote, “many of us lead lives lost in sense pleasure”, it’s hard to argue.
    I am in a second semester Spanish class in college and if my instructor (who is a Cuban and lived in Honduras for 13 years, and I think would appreciate it as well) ok’s it, with your permission, I would like to read your poem for the class. I think it would be very pertinent to the cultural part of our learning Spanish and about Latin American culture. It would also be a powerful “soul’ teaching tool. I also have another blogging site I’m starting up and at some point would like to post it there as well. I certainly would give credit if I do use it, and I would try to present it in a way that allows others to experience it in their own way, perhaps emphasizing the accompanying message of grief’s transformational powers.
    It would be easy to attach some politically motivated message to the poem but I think the spirit of it speaks for itself and is sort of a call to action, a sort of wake up call for the soul.
    I will wait to hear from you before using it for class or for a blog post. Also it is a little ironic, and I just made the connection, I had a close friend who died a couple of years ago here in Michigan who was named Lyman Starr. He was a unique individual, an incredible cook, artist, won national awards as a metal smith in high school, cared deeply for animals, plants and things of the wild while having very little use for our society at large. He was cranky, depressive and a recluse, yet as a friend offered you everything he had and more. I’m sure there is no family connection, but still, as they say, “there are no accidents”, nor as Dan Millman from Peaceful Warrior fame once wrote, “ordinary moments”….Perhaps the “Grieving Warrior” would be a good metaphor for this type of work as well…
    Thank you again for the powerful message.

    Doug in Traverse City

  2. Mirabai said

    Thank you, dear Doug, for this incredibly insightful response. I woke this morning a little worried that this latest post might have been too stark, too harsh. So I am grateful for your open heart and clear mind. By all means, feel free to share this poem. I have tossed it into the public sphere, so it’s available for anyone who might find something of use there. Many blessings on your beautiful journey. Mirabai

  3. robert Driscoll said

    “…the soul sings of the path she followed as she left behind attachment to herself and to created things.” -St. John of the Cross

    Please forgive me if this sounds cold, in the face of such passion. (I know what it feels like to howl).

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