Javier Zamora and Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Posted in 2020-2021 Readings and Talks

Left: Javier Zamora headshot. Right: Natalie Scenters-Zapico headshot.

January 26, 2021 at 7PM ET
Moderated by Carolyn Forché


—Javier Zamora

it was clear they were hungry
with their carts empty the clothes inside their empty hands

they were hungry because their hands
were empty their hands in trashcans

the trashcans on the street
the asphalt street on the red dirt the dirt taxpayers pay for

up to that invisible line visible thick white paint
visible booths visible with the fence starting from the booths

booth road booth road booth road office building then the fence
fence fence fence

it started from a corner with an iron pole
always an iron pole at the beginning

those men those women could walk between booths
say hi to white or brown officers no problem

the problem I think were carts belts jackets
we didn’t have any

or maybe not the problem
our skin sunburned all of us spoke Spanish

we didn’t know how they had ended up that way
on that side

we didn’t know how we had ended up here
we didn’t know but we understood why they walk

the opposite direction to buy food on this side
this side we all know is hunger

From Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017)
Read more about Javier Zamora.

Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo, México

—Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Part of the simulation is not knowing
your coyote’s real name. Part of the simulation
is knowing your group could leave you
behind. Part of the simulation is knowing
that if you are left behind, a pickup truck
will take you back to your hotel. 

Through caves, through brush, through needles
we form a line by holding on
to a stranger’s backpack. In the dark live 
rounds are fired. I duck, people laugh. 

The desert here is no desert at all & I think of how
I could cut a thick barrel cactus open
& eat it. In Chihuahua I’ve never seen
thick barrel cactus, only the thin long threads
of ocotillo that don’t carry much water. 

The chairos pay 250 pesos to walk 
all night in the desert in the middle of México
to simulate a border crossing. They bring jugs
filled with water & pose for selfies.

When you wade across the river you only have to worry
about swimming if a current pulls you under, not the red
glare of night-vision goggles, floodlights & guns. 

In the simulation, only two people make it 
to the other side without getting stopped by actors
portraying la migra or narcos. All are brought back
for cups of atole. It’s three in the morning, a girl laughs. 

I walk back to my room, turn on the light
& the flying ants won’t stop swarming. It is so dark
& have so much water left in my jug.
My teeth full of grit from the atole. 

From Lima :: Limón (Copper Canyon Press, 2019)
Read more about Natalie Scenters-Zapico

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