Sasha Pimentel
For Want of Water

an ant will drown himself, his body submerging

     into ease, his mandibles, head, antennae, baptized. How lovely

          to lose your senses to the cup of your want. A boy

                drags his mother’s body across the desert, her fluids rising

                      to God in order to quench her skin. How divine

                           her body must have looked, clutched at the ankles, her

arms reaching out in exultation, her head stippled in rings

      of sand and blood as he walked with her, slowly, her fallen

            and moving shape the fork of a divining rod, her body shaking

                 with each of his steps, and for water, shaking to find

                       that deep and secret tributary. I have dreams of letting go

                             of water, of waking my lover to a bed of my urine

as my brother did to me, his thin limbs shaking to discover

      the shame of his inside self. And what did we know that to have

            an inside wet enough to free was luxury? The boy

                 walks with his mother—he is only thirteen—the age I learned

                      to stroke on the toilet the blood off my fingers, and he can

                            not cry, because to cry would mean the waste of his own

wetness, to cry would mean to stop, to think, to differentiate

    the liquids moving down his face, to cry would mean

         to cry, so he goes on, and—this is a common story, the boy

                is not a boy now but every boy we have ever known—people

                       find him, they help him to lift his mother onto their hands,

                             their necks, they lift her to their own dark and desperate

dryness, and they make it, yes, when they make it over the border

   to a mall parking lot, they lay her down, they fall with her

      body as a clump of bodies behind a city dumpster,

          and people make calls from behind windows, not

              to the immigrants with the dying core, but to the police, who come

                 with their handcuffs and call her dead. No. To call

would be to give her life a name. Roundness to where there are now

   only angles. To call would be to remember all

       the other times that he has called for her, and the boy

           plugs his ears, shakes his head, doesn’t know that he cannot physically

              produce tears anymore—such thirst can rid us of these symbols—

                 only that now there are mouths around him calling other

names, as men run and other men give chase, because how much do you need

   to give up in order to stay? a boy? a mother? your land and inner

       land? Nothing. Nothing can be given, and he will remember

          nothing as he sits in a cell waiting for his sister to come to release

             him from his cellular pain. He will only remember water, that want

               for the clouds to let go their rain, and how seeing


them dropping, he kept pulling forward, their bodies steady towards that dark, uneven line.

Found In Volume 42, No. 02
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Sasha Pimentel
About the Author

Born in Manila and raised in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, Sasha Pimentel is a Filipina poet and author of For Want of Water (Beacon Press), selected by Gregory Pardlo as a winner of the 2016 National Poetry Series, and Insides She Swallowed, winner of the 2011 American Book Award. She's an associate professor in the Bilingual (Spanish-English) MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso, on the border of Ciudad Juárez, México.