July/Aug 2018 • Vol. XL No. 4 Poetry |

Macho :: Hembra

I cleaned chiles until my fingers burned to feed him. Like my father did to my mother at parties, he called me tontita. When we danced, I pressed my body against his. He smiled & pet my head like a dog. A good hembra never speaks of the violence of men.   :: I laughed because, after all, isn’t that what women do—laugh at jokes at their own expense? I was his pocha hermosa. He’d done good because of my fair skin & green eyes. He liked keeping me in my underwear in his room. Like a porcelain doll come to life, I was the perfect object. I screamed & was ashamed. He’d hand me matches & I’d strike each one against my teeth to make a flame. I’d whisper in his ear bruto & he’d hush me with the word hocicona. I’d cry & he’d kiss me quiet. My whole face fit in his cupped hands. He was el macho :: I was la hembra. To clean his body I’d blow smoke from my cigarette on his shoulders. I told myself I had found un buen macho. He

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Photo of Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Natalie Scenters-Zapico is most recently the author of Lima :: Limón (Copper Canyon Press, 2019). Winner of a Windham Campbell Prize, she is the author of poems published in The New Republic, Colorado Review, and New England Review, among others.

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