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Catalina Barroso-Luque, Transformación, coloured pencils and ink on paper, 2022

Mother of pearl, her daughter and niece.

Conches and sea shells you found in San Blas,

and a small marbled stone, now lost in gloss.

Souvenirs next to the bathtub in repose,

mementos you’ve brought home from the coast.

Mussels and cockles left out in the cold,

soft-bodied snails now lacking a home.

All while you soak, in salts and perfumes

— lavender, lemon, jasmine and rose.

Your body beneath an immaculate crystal,

a mirror of oil on hot water floats.

Tranquil and empty this watery vastness.

No people or animals:

no birds nor fish, no crabs, no forests, no stones or rocky slopes.

No gullies or ravines, no herbs or verdant groves.

Nothing to form a body, not a thing to make another.

Nothing swings nor produces the softest of grazes;

there is nothing but the peaceful waters…

…and like mist, like a cloud it is formed,

when, similar to crabs hiding in sand, the mountains emerge.

Thick like butter, pale like cream

milk spews from the crater spheres to form a dense stream.

The runnel inches forward like a snail on your breasts.

Moving with a series of undulating muscles,

it drags its slimy body towards the water’s edge.

The snail reaches the water. It finds its reflection and slips;

saliva dissolving in white fluid, the shell plummets towards the tub’s pit.

Fluids twist into a coil, a swivelling tropical storm.

Splinters fly into the tornado’s heart, then quickly fall,

overcome by the siphon, thousands of shards hit drain walls.

The particles land in the septic tank and there become stuck;

swamped for eternity, swaddled in muck.

The mollusc emerges centuries later, reborn as a fresh water ford.

It covers a three-hundred meter distance, it slowly carves a course.

It butts into a drain pipe, two, then three,

a trio of town drainage systems stretching to the water like the roots of a tree.

The ford becomes a river; Lerma, a bubbling black flux.

The riverine causeway swarming with migratory birds:

peregrine falcons and red-tailed hawks,

black-necked stilts and grimy tepalcate ducks.

Pools of bacteria spawn in its body, blooming in a green toxic tide;

brimming with water lilies and floating faeces,

Lerma burns from the country’s centre, west towards the Pacific.

You scratch the parched skin. Itch the acid scar.

Your index finger runs from the lacrimal to where the eye folds.

It continues upwards, pushing through eyebrows’ bushy path

lifting each follicle before stepping over the nose bridge and making its way back.

The index maps a curved trajectory, a slithering snake

—creeping between saguaros and garambulla cactus into a salt lake.

A finger over an eye and you can sense the movement of blood.

Blood bearing nature and the weather. Blood flowering from the scratched open wound.

So you flee into the hills, shaken by the carmine surge.

You conceal your reptilian body behind the sweet acacia, your scales like wool serge.

Your coat catches on the bushy undergrowth and you trip.

Clinging onto the dear cliff, you helplessly watch how your womb rips.

Torn into pieces, earth echos with tumbling limbs:

two arms, two hands, an index finger and a ring;

an ear, a shoulder and a shivering upper lip.

Mouth gasping for air, lungs filled with another woman’s last breath.

Her husband chopped her up with his machete—he destroyed her hands, face and head.

He wrapped her body in a plastic bag and tossed it on the side of forgotten road

Tarandacuao-Jerécuaro—the Lerma River rushing below.

Five drops of jasmine, ten drops of lavender essential oil,

a fistful of rose petals and a wreath of scented candles caked in gold foil.

Soaked in perfumed water your muscles distend, your arms let go.

Your ear picks up the recording of a fountain, the river, the sea;

your mind focuses on forgetting the newspaper’s detailed murder story.

Like a coastal bird diving into clear water, your right hand descends from the sky.

It swims in the direction of your sweet Venus triangle, feathers caked in red dye.

Anhinga Anhinga, a snake bird untangling your thick black curls,

its beak curiously probing between those soft flesh folds.

Anhinga Anhinga drooling a viscous translucent secretion,

drawing an outline, caressing your hairless interior walls.

Steeped in a coagulated discharge, the bird’s beak writhes round a continuous curve.

A calcified pink exoskeleton, a shell coated in a nacre veneer,

a groaning mythical instrument that is mother to the night wind.

Singing with poetry, your body sinks into the conch’s divine breath.

Your head twists forward, swaying right and then left.

Your legs fold, your back curls, your body slips

sliding towards the centre of the tub, allured by the water’s sultry courtship.

As if by instinct, you open your mouth and allow the red tide in.

Your vocal cavity is flooded and you feel you cannot breathe;

your consciousness plunges deeper and deeper into this nightmarish dream.

Your lifeless body is tossed by the waves and battered by the sand,

shaken by the vast strength that swells from the Heart in the Sky.

A hurricane hauls your corpse towards the rocks and cuts it apart;

waves heaving with flesh, stones splattered with blood.

Embraced by the water, your legs turn into a shoal of fish, your abdomen into a squid.

Your arms become coral, your vagina, a salmon-coloured conch.

With the waxing of the moon, your remains give birth to a siren with a reptilian tale,

your nose and breasts transformed into crocodile pointed scales.

And so you slither from the eternal chaos, from the universe’s black amniotic sack;

you are the divine caiman holding the world on its back.


Catalina Barroso-Luque is an artist working in Mexico City and Glasgow. She constructs narratives inhabited by characters, bodies, images, voices and objects.