Poetry Sunday: “You Are a Dark Body,”
by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

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

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

the sores you breathe & 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 & 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.


From Lima :: Limón, Copyright © 2019 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Copper Canyon Press. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Natalie Scenters-Zapico is a fronteriza from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Her first collection, The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing 2015), won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, the GLCA’s New Writers Award, the NACCS Foco Book Prize, and the Utah Book Award. A second collection, Lima :: Limón, was recently released by Copper Canyon Press and is available for order here. Scenters-Zapico has fellowships from the Lannan Foundation (2015) and CantoMundo (2015), and a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation (2018). Her poems have appeared in a wide range of anthologies and literary magazines, including Best American Poetry 2015, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Tin House, and more. She is currently a professor of literature at Bennington College and in fall 2019 will join the faculty at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.


Poet’s Note

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.

Book Review and Interview links:

  • Booklist here.
  • Latino Book Review here.
  • Publisher’s Weekly here.
  • Rumpus here.
  • Kenyon Review here.

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