Published on Academy of American Poets (

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.


Copyright © 2016 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I grew up in the Chihuahuan desert and have felt the kind of thirst only extreme dry heat can bring. In moments when I’ve longed for water most I think of how my body is made of so much water, and how the same earthly compound I yearn for could drown me.  This poem is about thirst and how a life of thirst then quenched with a fistful of water can make you contend with all the women you could have been, the children you could have had, and the ever-changing body you are given.”  
—Natalie Scenters-Zapico


Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Natalie Scenters-Zapico is the author of Lima::Limón (Copper Canyon Press, 2019), and The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing, 2015).

Date Published: 2016-10-06

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