Listen:

How do I ask Lourdes to sort the difference
between my knives? The serrated are only
for dining, the curved ones for husking
muscle from the bone, their edges hollow

-grounded, meant to phalanx at the wooden
block. She’s unloading the washer, my hands
in soap and sauce, and Juárez glows
at the end of the window, the bridge

shiny as an eel. Last month, cartel thugs
hustled her husband Martín, stuck their thumbs
into his clavicles, bruised his hollows
for a teacher’s bonus, while this woman, crouching

inside, counted the copper jackets sheathing
her walls. How does a woman begin
to count how many bullets are shattering
her panes? (She cupped her nervous

belly, fingered the budded navel, hummed
into the growing ear there, 1, 2 . . . 3, each
beat like systole, diastole, song made
to cleave one moment from another.) No

decapitations today, she tells me, though
her neighbor hung himself this week, and I dry
my hands, sponge grease from the steaming
counters. She separates each blade from the other.

*

Excerpted from For Want of Water & Other Poems by Sasha Pimentel, a National Poetry Series winner selected and with a foreword by Gregory Pardlo (Beacon Press, 2017). Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.

Illustration by Ansellia Kulikku.

Sasha Pimentel

Sasha Pimentel is also the author of Insides She Swallowed, winner of the 2011 American Book Award. Born in Manila and raised in the United States and Saudi Arabia, she is a professor of poetry and creative nonfiction in the bilingual MFA Program at the University of Texas at El Paso.