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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 9, 2015.
About this Poem 

“On a walk with my grandmother we came across a dead bird. I offered to rescue the bird—to bury it—but my grandmother told me to leave it—dead birds are a bad omen. I still wonder if the bad omen was brought on by seeing the bird, or by leaving it.”
Natalie Scenters-Zapico

There Is a Bird in My Mouth

I found it on your belly, and caught it
with two fingers. I kept the bird
on a little perch behind my ear.

I plucked its feathers, stuffed them
against my jaw like chewing tobacco,
and spit the black threads

into a styrofoam cup. One night
the bird died. Crushed beak, split
bone—we did it. Your heart

jealous, my body disgusted
by the taste of seed and bark—
we didn’t want the bird.

We did it over dinner,
you reached into my memory
by placing a finger

in my ear. I placed a hand
in your mouth to catch the bird
and we smashed it

together. This is simple, we did it
and spoke of it with ease. Through
the memory, we killed

the bird that was never ours.
Now we’ve become
bird butchers
, you say

and throw the bird’s limp body
in the trash. I reach to clasp
your face, but have lost

both my hands. Each finger
disappeared into your pupils,
our little black cruxes.
 

Copyright © 2015 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 9, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 9, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Natalie Scenters-Zapico is the author of Lima::Limón, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press, and The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing, 2015).

by this poet

poem

Ciudad Juárez

You bob & spit & bite
     at my breast. You are my private
colony of sharp stones. I burn
     your umbilical cord to ash.
Come, meet the spirits. Before
     your birth I thought you an eyeball
bruised purple. I have no crib
     to leave

poem

of water with a bed of rock barely visible
from your surface. You are the only dark body

of water in a desert littered with bleeding cactus.
At your collarbones you carry a gulch, held up by a thread

of hair. You travel days drinking only from yourself,
because you are this land’s only

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