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Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Natalie Scenters-Zapico is the author of Lima :: Limón (Copper Canyon Press, 2019), finalist for the 2020 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing, 2015), winner of the PEN American/Joyce Osterweil Award, the Great Lakes College Association's New Writers Award, the National Association of Chicana/o Studies Book Award, and the Utah Book Award. A recipient of a Ruth Lily Dorothy Sergeant Rosenberg Fellowship and a Lannan Fellowship, she teaches at the University of Puget Sound and lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Natalie Scenters-Zapico
Photo Credit: José Ángel Maldonado

By This Poet

5

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.

Paper Cuts

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.