Natalie Scenters-Zapico

                                                                      — For Julio Cortázar, Ana Castillo, & those who know


A shell of teeth,

mother of pearl brilliant.

I wash each tooth by hand.

They are the bones

of my daughter still

to fall. A foam collects

in the vitals of the earth

full of teeth. Bones,

from my womb

washed clean with hot

water in a brass tub

& poured beneath

the ocotillo to be burnt.


Que te salves,

María, llena eres

de rajas, estas

sola en este mundo.

Bendito es El entre

todas las mujeres

y bendito es el trabajo

de tu vientre, Jesús.

María, ama de casas,

ruega por nosotros

pecadores ahora y

en la hora de

nuestro nacimiento.


Who is the father,

María? Does it matter

who it was if he

isn’t here now?

Does it matter who

it was if he wasn’t

here when from

between your legs

you bled into bedding

onto the floor. You made

this baby, it was your

baby. You made it,

it was yours.


Dios te salve, María,

llena eres de gracia,

el Señor es contigo.

Bendita tu eres

entre todas las mujeres

y bendito es el fruto

de tu vientre, Jesús.

Santa María,

Madre de Dios,

ruega por nosotros

pecadores ahora

y en la hora

de nuestra muerte.


María, when your macho

comes knocking at the back

gate, turn each light

off. Pretend no one

is home, María. Pretend

you are not home, in your

body. Pretend your body

did not lose pressed

skin & blood. Pretend

you did not rid yourself

of your child, of your

baby, by your body,

your cuerpo. Your body?


There is no damp earth

here, only powder

I grind from teeth

to use as dye for thread.

This is my solitary

burial. No macho cares

for the child born, but not

breathing. My baby, I tried

to roll myself into a ball

as he kicked to break

teeth, but you would not

stop bleeding, you kept

flooding between my knees.


No llores, María,

tell no one

of the child. Tell

no one, María,

even when machos

laugh as you hum

to yourself over

the pot of laundry.

Beat each sheet

against stone.

The washing

machine, gone

to rust in the yard.


The desert is always

hungry. I break

rock to dirt

with a pick. Sky

breaks in shards.

I wash the child, hope

to hear a scream.

She is dead, but I

carry her, eyes closed

through the yard &

breathe into her

mouth, which looks

like my mouth.


Dios te dejo,

María, llena eres de

llantos, el Señor

te dejo en el desierto.

Bendita es tu hija,

muerta debajo del

ocotillo, y bendita

es su flor, roja como

la sangre que florece.

Santa María, madre

de la hija muerta

antes de vivir,

ruega, ruega, ruega.

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