Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Lima Limon by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Griffin Poetry Prize 2020
International Shortlist

Lima :: Limón

Poet: Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Publisher: Copper Canyon Press

Click here to read an excerpt.

Natalie Scenters-Zapico


Natalie Scenters-Zapico is a fronteriza from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, USA, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. Her first collection, The Verging Cities (2015), won the PEN America/Joyce Osterweil Award, GLCA’s New Writers Award, NACCS Foco Book Prize, and Utah Book Award. Lima :: Limón is her second collection. She has won fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, CantoMundo, and a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Her poems have appeared in a wide range of anthologies and literary magazines, including Best American Poetry 2015, POETRY, Tin House, Kenyon Review, and more. She is currently teaching at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, USA.

Judges’ Citation

“There is a driving, deliberate, righteous indignation to Lima :: Limón, a force that that will unsettle many readers though it is tempered with a mature and forgiving undersong of empathy and love. Natalie Scenters-Zapico is a fronteriza, a frontier dweller, a woman shaped by the contending cultures of Mexico and the USA. Her unflinching gaze is turned on machismo and marianismo, and the quotidian reality of community in crisis, in an elegant poetry that speaks through masks both sacred and profane. The shadow of femicide is never far, but the poet finds a redemptive magic in the voices of the mutilated, in the traditions of ancestors, in the salvific powers of language, in poems pushed to the very edge of what can be said.”

Buen Esqueleto

Life is short & I tell this to mis hijas.
Life is short & I show them how to talk
to police without opening the door, how
to leave the social security number blank
on the exam, I tell this to mis hijas.
This world tells them I hate you every day
& I don’t keep this from mis hijas
because of the bus driver who kicks them out
onto the streetfor fare evasion. Because I love
mis hijas, I keep them from men who’d knock
their heads together just to hear the chime.
Life is short & the world is terrible. I know
no kind strangers in this country who aren’t
sisters a desert away & I don’t keep this
from mis hijas. It’s not my job to sell
them the world, but to keep them safe
in case I get deported. Our first
landlord said with a bucket of bleach
the mold would come right off. He shook
mis hijas, said they had good bones
for hard work. Mi’jas, could we make this place
beautiful? I tried to make this place beautiful.

From Lima :: Limón by Natalie Scenters-Zapico
Copyright © 2019 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

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