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. These five poems are from For Want of Water (Beacon Press, 2017).