Why I Chose Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s Lima :: Limón for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club

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I want to preface this piece by noting that I do not speak or read Spanish, and that translation is a tricky thing even for people with an intimate knowledge of the languages they are moving between. I apologize in advance for any misunderstandings around the text I may bring forward as a result.

Lima :: Limón is Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s second collection, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press on May 14 but available to Poetry Book Club members in just a few weeks! Many of the poems in this collection seem connected by analogy. For instance, the first section contains five poems whose titles link Lima Limón to various periods of life, from infancia (infancy) to madurez (maturity) through old age and decrepitud (infirmity).

Before I tell you more, a quick reminder that in order to receive your early copy of Lima :: Limón, read along with the Poetry Book Club, and participate in our exclusive chat with Natalie Scenters-Zapico, you’ll need to subscribe by March 20!

The second section includes six prose poems, all titled “Macho :: Hembra” and all detailing the violence between the man and woman in the poems. The penultimate poem in this section, on page forty-seven, starts with a series of connective analogies:

This is how macho :: hembra play house. This is how macho :: hembra play love. This is how macho :: hembra crave violence. This is how macho :: hembra purge themselves. These events are related.

The poem then moves from macho to machismo, or from man to aggressive, even toxic masculinity. The speaker says “I accept machismo,” and then defines it at first by what it isn’t:

Machismo is not about the father. Machismo is not about walnuts waiting to be peeled, chiles turned soft, pomegranate thrown on a plate to be served to your macho. Machismo is men as animals hunting: kiss her neck, crack it, still her under your chin.

Machismo is not about family or tenderness. It’s about dominance and control, and it makes that early line about acceptance really heavy with with the question of what’s possible in this kind of relationship.

In his review of the collection at Latino Book Review, Rodney Gomez writes that “in all of the book’s poems the hembra speaks for herself. This work is not (as the poem ‘Aesthetic Translation’ alludes to) a glossy Charles Bowden appropriation. It is instead honesty, telling us very clearly about a kind of dystopia that is too often ignored,” and that’s important. Too often, when the subject of violence in Ciudad Juárez comes up in the US media, it’s condensed down to numbers of bodies and/or tied to tired political talking points, and it’s almost never talked about with any real sense of the human beings living and dying there, most especially the women. Lima :: Limon refuses to let us as readers simplify this situation. it demands we recognize the speaker and the others in the book as full and complicated human beings.

Please join me in April as we read and discuss Lima :: Limón, first together and then with Natalie Scenters-Zapico in our exclusive online chat. Subscribe to the Rumpus Poetry Book Club by March 20 to make sure you don’t miss out!


Brian Spears's first collection of poetry, A Witness in Exile, is now available through Louisiana Literature Press, and at his personal website. He is Senior Poetry Editor at The Rumpus. More from this author →