We are a public forum committed to collective reasoning and the imagination of a more just world. Join today to help us keep the discussion of ideas free and open to everyone, and enjoy member benefits like our quarterly books.
I embroider the days of the lunar
calendar on handkerchiefs to track
my menstrual omissions. The only way
to catch a stray breath is by exhaling
on glass & releasing from its cage
the river that lives amongst pulsing
cilia. I place a TV, the size of my palm,
between my legs & by its glare see
a moonless night. I laugh at the thought
of burglary, stitch a cigar under
an apple tree on my belly, fall
asleep to the soft sound of thread
tugging on skin, and wish my grandmother
could show me how to wash my feet
with a bucket of sand & a kettle
of hot water. I work to make
my body a comfort. My body:
the table where strangers sit to be served
as king in a court of cross-stitched
felons. Each felon with a needle’s prick
assassins down the highway of my legs.
An eyelash is pressed taut against fabric
& I know my body is a sutured thing,
that by my hand can be torn & with a needle stitched again.
Natalie Scenters-Zapico is the author of The Verging Cities, which won the 2017 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, the GLCA Award, the National Association of Chicana/o Studies Book Award, and was featured as a top debut of 2015 by Poets and Writers (Center for Literary Publishing 2015). Her most recent work is forthcoming or can be found in POETRY, Gulf Coast, West Branch, the Bennington Review, and more.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
Draconian individual punishment distracts from systemic change and reinforces the cruelest and most racist system of incarceration on the planet.
Our well-being depends on a better understanding of how the logic of labor has twisted our relationship with pleasure.
“I was my father’s son. My father was Nai Nai’s least favorite.” A Taiwanese American man, driven from home by a secret, reevaluates his childhood memories of his grandmother.