Beast Meridian

Vanessa Angelica Villarreal, University of Colorado at Boulder


Part myth, part autobiographical essay, part poetry, part bestiary, this collection of prose/poems interrogates the Mexican immigrant condition by imagining it as a physical space—a dark, liminal forest, where Mexican immigrants have been reduced to animals to exist in a kind of purgatory. The Beast Meridian is a line and a condition that confines the animals and the speaker, Alma, to their animal form in a cursed forest shadowland, which renders the animals invisible to their former life and to the rest of the world. Each animal narrates from behind the Beast Meridian, a border which, if crossed, could transfigure these animals back into their human form, but each attempt to cross further curses them, relegating them to deeper darkness and obscurity. The cursed forest these animals inhabit is at once a metaphor for depression, suicide, poverty, and the reality of racism and oppression toward Mexican immigrants in the US, which renders them invisible while they are stripped of their humanity, treated as animals and pests to be exterminated, worked like beasts of burden, consigned to hard labor in long shifts behind the scenes, and bound to the shadows of society.