Junior History major Brandon Cook talks about the poetry book Vertebral River by Juan Armando Rojas Joo that he read for Dr. Rathbun’s U.S.-Mexico Border Literature Class
The title of the book represents how, just like a human vertebra, the body is split down the middle but the author makes it known that this split is not just about the body, but of a cultural division as well. The river that represents the border is like a human vertebra because it is such an important source of life for the people who live near it. People congregate around it in order to cling to tradition, but it is a fragile thing that has become a part of their lives.
The book is certainly not a random ordering of poems, each poem is placed to best explain what the title means. Some of the poems are even placed in order so that the beginning of each spells out the title; “Rio Vertebral”.
The poem called “Prayer for the Dead” highlights almost every aspect of border culture, but most importantly, death. It speaks of the desert and the countless victims it has consumed because of its many predators.