Natalie Scenters-Zapico is a poet, educator, and activist from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, USA and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. She is the author of Lima :: Limón (Copper Canyon Press 2019) and The Verging Cities (Colorado State University 2015). Her poems have been published and anthologized in a wide range of nationally and internationally distributed journals including POETRY, The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and Best American Poetry 2015. She is the winner of prestigious awards and fellowships from PEN America, the Great Lakes Colleges’ Association, the Lannan Foundation (2017), CantoMundo (2015), a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation (2018), and was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (2020), and the International Griffin Poetry Prize (2020). She is an Assistant Professor of poetry at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
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.
Originally published in Poem-a-Day by the Academy of American Poets.
- Writer’s website. (new window)
- “The Bittersweet Poetry of ‘Lima :: Limón’.” The New Yorker. 27 May 2019. (new window)
- “Not the right frame, but many frames: a conversation with Natalie Scenters-Zapico.” The Adroit Journal. 30 April 2019. (new window)