Life is short, and I tell this to mis hijas.
Life is short, & I show them how to talk
to police without opening the door, how
to leave the social security number blank
on the exam, I tell this to mis hijas.
This world tells them I hate you every day
& I don’t keep this from mis hijas
because of the bus driver who kicks them
to the street for fare evasion. Because I love
mis hijas, I keep them from men who’d knock
their heads together just to hear the chime.
Life is short & the world is terrible. I know
no kind strangers in this country who aren’t
sisters a desert away, & I don’t keep this
from mis hijas. It’s not my job to sell
them the world, but to keep them safe
in case I get deported. Our first
landlord said with a bucket of bleach
the mold would come right off. He shook
mis hijas, said they had good bones
for hard work. Mi’jas, could we make this place
beautiful? I tried to make this place beautiful.
—After “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith
Natalie Scenters-Zapico is the author of The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing), which won the PEN American/Joyce Osterweil Award and the GLCA Award, as well as the forthcoming Lima :: Limón (Copper Canyon Press). Her most recent poems are forthcoming or can be found in POETRY, Boston Review, and Tin House. Starting in Fall 2017, she will be teaching at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.