While crossing the river of shorn paper,
I forget my name. My body,
a please leave. I want a patron saint

that will hush the dog growling
at trimmed hedges it sees in the night.
I want the world to be without language,

but write my thoughts down just in case.
Send help, the dog’s growling
won’t let me sleep. I haven’t slept in days.

I am looking for a patron saint, but none
will let me pray for guidance. There is a buzz
in my right ear that never goes away, no matter

how hard I hit the side of my head
for loose change. Most mornings I wonder
who I can pray to that will make sure I never

have to survive waking again. Most nights
I forget to pray the rosary, though I sleep with it
by the bed. I’ve never owned a TV because

I’ll replay this conversation in my head.
My dead lovers are hungry in the kitchen,
so I fix them food they cannot eat. I make toast

of vellum paper, fry an egg made of crepe.
I only want a patron saint to protect me.
I only want someone else to bleed.

More by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

There Is a Bird in My Mouth

I found it on your belly, and caught it
with two fingers. I kept the bird
on a little perch behind my ear.

I plucked its feathers, stuffed them
against my jaw like chewing tobacco,
and spit the black threads

into a styrofoam cup. One night
the bird died. Crushed beak, split
bone—we did it. Your heart

jealous, my body disgusted
by the taste of seed and bark—
we didn’t want the bird.

We did it over dinner,
you reached into my memory
by placing a finger

in my ear. I placed a hand
in your mouth to catch the bird
and we smashed it

together. This is simple, we did it
and spoke of it with ease. Through
the memory, we killed

the bird that was never ours.
Now we’ve become
bird butchers
, you say

and throw the bird’s limp body
in the trash. I reach to clasp
your face, but have lost

both my hands. Each finger
disappeared into your pupils,
our little black cruxes.
 

You Are a Dark Body

of water with a bed of rock barely visible
from your surface. You are the only dark body

of water in a desert littered with bleeding cactus.
At your collarbones you carry a gulch, held up by a thread

of hair. You travel days drinking only from yourself,
because you are this land’s only dark body

of water. At the crease of horizon you find a woman
in bed, her chest wet with saliva, you kick her

off the bed, and take her place among its sheets. A man
lies down in bed next to you. He swallows your dark body

of water and gives you a woman’s body, a body you’ve
never known. As a woman he gives you sores, and through

the sores you breathe, and despite the sores you give birth
to a child stillborn for lack of water. You kick the child off

the bed, but it returns in the arms of the woman whose bed
you stole. You cry to be made again into a dark body

of water. The man kicks you off the bed, covers you
with dirt, and turns you desert. You cry for a bed he will never

let you sleep in again. You cry for your body’s bed
of rock turned desert for lack of water.
 

For My Son Born in La Mariscal

Ciudad Juárez

You bob & spit & bite
     at my breast. You are my private
colony of sharp stones. I burn
     your umbilical cord to ash.
Come, meet the spirits. Before
     your birth I thought you an eyeball
bruised purple. I have no crib
     to leave you in, but a maizena cardboard box
& a blanket of my thick dark hair.
     I have done many things to feed your body—
open-legged, dark-thumbed
     things. Things for the price of what I
can endure in thirty minutes before
     breaking. I know I can’t keep you,
but even stillborn I used the blood
     I gave you to wash my legs clean.

Related Poems

Silence Is So Accurate, Rothko Wrote

Accurate like an arrow without a target
and no target in mind.

Silence has its own roar or, not-roar,
just as Rothko wrote “I don’t express myself
in my paintings. I express my not-self.”

A poem that expresses the not-self.
Everything but the self.
The meadow’s veil of fog, but is veil self-referential?

Already, dawn, the not-birds alert to what silence has to offer.

The fog, one of Rothko’s shapes,
hanging there in the not-self, humming.

Mikel, before he died, loved Rothko most.
When he could still think, he put his mind
to those sorts of judgments.

If I pull the fog away like theater curtains, what then?

Sadness shapes the landscape.
The arrow of myself thwacks the nearest tree.
Fog steps closer like a perpetrator or a god.

Oh. I’m weeping.
Tears feed the silence like a mother drops
into her baby not-bird’s open beak

some sweet but dangerous morsel.

Perceiving is the same as receiving and it is the same as responding.


thought begins as small floral bowls  :  they hold greens—broccoli stalks,


                                                       chopped kale—against Chinese blue


                                                       very dark, with a greenish tint :




the way a silence falls to each side


of the knife's stroke, the colors rhyme


softly and I think, I'll miss this when I die.    This is how I enter appearances


Thinking of Frost

I thought by now my reverence would have waned,
matured to the tempered silence of the bookish or revealed 
how blasé I’ve grown with age, but the unrestrained
joy I feel when a black skein of geese voyages like a dropped 
string from God, slowly shifting and soaring, when the decayed 
apples of an orchard amass beneath its trees like Eve’s
first party, when driving and the road Vanna-Whites its crops
of corn whose stalks will soon give way to a harvester’s blade
and turn the land to a man’s unruly face, makes me believe
I will never soothe the pagan in me, nor exhibit the propriety
of the polite. After a few moons, I’m loud this time of year,
unseemly as a chevron of honking. I’m fire in the leaves,
obstreperous as a New England farmer. I see fear
in the eyes of his children. They walk home from school,
as evening falls like an advancing trickle of bats, the sky
pungent as bounty in chimney smoke. I read the scowl
below the smiles of parents at my son’s soccer game, their agitation,
the figure of wind yellow leaves make of quaking aspens.