cover image Lima :: Limón

Lima :: Limón

Natalie Scenters-Zapico. Copper Canyon, $16 (80p) ISBN 978-1-55659-531-8

Through a range of forms—tercets, prose hybrids, lyric strophes, and more—the poems in Scenters-Zapico’s second collection (after The Verging Cities) incisively interrogate the aesthetics of cultural difference. “I want you/ to say my name like the word: lemon./Say it like the word: limón. Undress me/in strands of rind,” remarks the speaker in the opening poem. Scenters-Zapico, who grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border, examines this cross-cultural overlap, positing her speaker as being at once self and other, and suggesting the internalized gaze of the predominant culture. She provocatively reveals her speakers as being complicit in their own exotification and objectification, as she implores, “I want to be lemons in the bowl/ on the cover of the magazine.” Scenters-Zapico’s formal dexterity serves the book’s subject, as the instability of the language mirrors and complicates the speaker’s self-aware performances of cultural difference. In “My Macho Takes Good Care of Me,” she writes: “because he’s a citizen de los united estates./ I got a stove this big, a refri this full, a mirror/ just to see my pretty face.” Here, the speaker performs gendered tropes of femininity to serve her own material gain. Yet the neat tercets evoke her containment, problematizing the narrative itself. Throughout the collection, Scenters-Zapico inhabits an interstitial space between languages, forms, and traditions, evoking the fluidity of the self. (May)