As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Natalie Scenters-Zapico – Poetry


Escaping The Verging Cities   

And when I realize the woman in the film looks just like my sister and the film will end
as all snuff films end, I wonder if I should turn off my computer.

And the lens, too burnt to tell if the man that pulls her hair has a cigarette or a toothpick
in his mouth, only reveals I can’t stand to see her planked body.

And when I tell myself the knife at her throat will kill her, I can’t help but remember
when I jumped into myself through a mirror at a bar where I had too much cocaine.

And how a blue-faced man put his hand up my skirt, how he delicately arched his fingers
and made me cry until I thought: people find beauty in a field of weeds.

And the next day my mouth was an anthill and I cried in my closet thinking he’d be the
only myrmecologist to see the colonies inside me.

And later I drank insecticide, but the ants poured out of my every orifice. They
whispered: now we know your deepest tissue—it is rotting.

And I asked: have I been rotting since they deported me? And they said: no, we’ve been
boring holes in you much longer than that.

And the weeds in my closet prophesized, before they died, that I’d be snapped in half and
fed to monsters in an ocean I’ve never known.

And I know the weeds truly grow when I look closer at the screen and realize the girl in
the film couldn’t be my sister, but that braided hair could only belong to me.


*         *        *

The Archeologist Came To Hunt Trilobites   

hidden in the rocks. He looked
for the curve of their antennae. He hunted
trilobites and ferns caked in white.

He hunted trilobites and ferns until
he found a human skull. A woman,
her teeth blanched yellow, her cartilage

slooped over her face. The archeologist
left her severed body for the sun
to eat, but then it wouldn’t leave him.

He hunted trilobites and ferns, but after
that day, he left the desert and wrote:
The human skull was of a girl ages 16-19.

I’d never really seen violence
until that day. Her face was already
bone. Her body, scattered.

The archeologist learned how
to love a place quiet, pull it off you,
how to brush each bone and take

its print. The archeologist came
to hunt trilobites and ferns caked in white.
But she too, was always hunted.


*      *      *

The Corner Store Clerk Says Her Name Was Ofelia  

and it started, with a phone call. A man
asking for fifty thousand dollars. Ofelia
dressed her children in plain cotton, she picked
them up at the door of every house and store—
parking lots are how people go missing.
The tree in her front yard swollen with winged
ants, she couldn’t sleep. Fear: the tree was dying.
She forgot to paint its trunk white. She plugged
her ears, disconnected the phone and boarded
every window. She dreamt her body cut
in half—a perfect border. When Ofelia
found her son’s body, a display of limbs,
by the tree, she thought of the word: drown.
His blood was sap the tree could not stop oozing.

*     *     *

The Verging Cities Watch Me  

I walk home from a bar alone, stop
       on Rim Road to let the lights of El Paso
              and Juárez switch on

              and off, sew themselves over all the ugly
       of my body. I hold my breath, and hope
all that light will turn

into black beetles to swarm me quiet.
      But when I open my body I am alone,
             alone only the way these two cities can be

             alone, only the way I am alone with him.
       When we are naked, we are pale as flyers
for women gone missing. He whispers:

             you’ll never sleep at night if you don’t look
        at what I have hidden under my eye lids. 
I inch the skin up like a blind, reveal two

nails where his eyes should be. If only
        I had loved him sooner, how I’d have kissed
              each eye green.

*     *     *

The Poem Shows Up  

as a sixteen year old girl with long hair, glitter eye shadow,
in a One Direction t-shirt. It shows up and sits in a corner of your office

on an iPhone tweeting:  Zac Efron is my husband #celebrityhotties.
Ashamed, you wipe the poem’s makeup off, you outline its eyes

in brown and dress it in a designer discount  sweater. You tell it:
be a man, be serious, now say something profound. You tell it:

act a prayer, act a song, now act as a traditional father.
But the poem rolls its eyes and tells you: I think he thinks I’m cute

but not hot. I want to be hot. It’s so immature you send it to therapy
but the Lexapro makes it say: Wait, you want me to do what? Yeah, no.

You want to make it wiser. You want to find the place that’s making it
so childish. So you prop its body on a table, you create an impromptu

surgical theatre and invite a group of men to take notes on how you pin
flaps of its skin back, tack tubes and wires across its naked body.

You show them how to create a roadmap men can follow again and again
in case they get lost. And the poem bleeds, it bleeds and you

don’t understand where all this blood is coming from. You are the man
doing this to a sixteen year old girl, to show the theatre why the poem

hasn’t been fitting in this box, hasn’t been pushing to the next line,
hasn’t subverted, hasn’t contained, hasn’t acted a prayer, a song.

Why the poem isn’t a traditional father. There’s blood in your hairline
and the theatre takes notes until the girl dies. You cut her body in pieces

and tell yourself you can use this liver later, this heart might be wild
enough for someone else,  this kidney might save a life. When you can’t

recognize the poem from the girl any longer  you wash your hands
and tell yourself  you’ve done something your father would be proud of.

Contributor’s Notes:

Natalie Scenters Zapico head shot

Natalie Scenters-Zapico is from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, México. Her work has appeared in The Believer, Cream City Review, Bellevue Literary Review, PALABRA, and more. She is managing editor of Blue Mesa Review.

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