I Am With Child
who eats thin steak still-
bleeding. Child sits on my chest,
says, cut off my head, please.
I look for a plastic knife & saw
at child’s cheeks. Child screams,
Saw! Saw! Saw! I saw, until
child says, I want to bloom
into a thousand video game pixels.
I saw until child’s blood blooms
on my shirt. I carry child
in my rotating arms & call thief
to take child away. Thief comes
& fills child’s cuts with gold leaf
stolen from the Haram
al-Sharif. Thief says child
is holy & child can give
forgiveness. Child looks deep
into the stripes of my pupils
& says, I do not forgive
your mind, your mouth, your heart.
I do not forgive the bug
on your immigrant tongue.
I open my mouth, find
my immigrant bug—
a black sore. I clean the knife
of child’s blood on my sleeve,
cut the sore free, and ask
child what I must do
with it. Child says, that sore
was a gift from your immigrant
mother, welcome you are
immigrant no more.
On Ash Wednesday
I can’t shake the obligation and go to Mass
to become holy. I whisper in Latin and let
murmurs become a foot in water, awakening
clouds of silt. I walk the aisle to receive my ashes
and hold my breath when it’s Javier Duarte
who touches my forehead with his thumb
to make a dark cross. He has marked me
with the dead I have longed to be buried with
all my life. A darkness invisible to those
who see me. I am thousands of miles away
from Duarte, but see his face in every priest
who touches me. I have no connection
to Veracruz and I’ve never been the woman
in the military jacket climbing the streets
of Mexico City until her feet bleed, shouting
into a megaphone: LasVamosANombrar.
I am from the North, where we wear
surgical masks for three days to mark
we’ve been fasting. We rise the day of the march
and make caldo de res to feed the poor later.
As we march, we hang images of women
bleeding around our necks. We want
to be the funeral procession that was never had
for the dead. The dead found buried
in an unused chimney, held up by a plywood board.
This is my failed re-creation; our protest a failed
resuscitation. The pain in my feet from marching
with these women, the sour taste in my mouth
from wearing the surgical mask with these women
as a woman, returns with the pulping of the host
on my dry tongue. I don’t take the wine —
Javier Duarte finishes it, sings a song softly,
and processes out of the church in line.
Natalie Scenters-Zapico is from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, U.S.A. and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. She is the author of The Verging Cities, which is part of the Mountain West Poetry Series (CLP June 2015). A CantoMundo fellow, her poems have appeared in American Poets, The Believer, Prairie Schooner, West Branch, Best American Poetry 2015 and more. She teaches English and creative writing, and coordinates the student-led literary magazine Tepeyac at Juan Diego Catholic High School. Natalie lives with her husband, border rhetorics scholar José Ángel Maldonado, in Salt Lake City.