Tragavenados, by Nathalia Samhil Gonzalez Gutierrez


Zulia carries a tragavenado
a boa enmeshed in the heat of her waist
she wears it
a chastity belt
plays the dam(e)
in which no water can take shape.

In those sleep-mourning hours
wide-palmed leaves
offer once
(and ask politely again)
their branched bodies to her
their twirling twig-ligaments
riding the coils of her hair.

Like every European
her father insisted
she make peace with
they feign ignorance
at those sacred parts of her
they brush skins with.

When the perked fingers and long hands clear,
the site exhales
a long-held breath
ahead Zulia kneels
over that site where a tree’s fall
split the soil’s mouth open
its lips
forever half-grinned.

Into those maroon-flesh rips
the river’s water tips
like every day that came before
she scoops
the tintless bleeding
onto her face
but still
a sliver of hatred remains
miscarried in the bowl of her hands.

Her cheeks are stale
but the reptile wound ‘round her centre
lets her know Air again.


Find peace in them
her father had said
as a messenger should
she had gone in search
of a droplet of fertile earth
in her enemies’ dunes.

Upon her return
she finds her father’s neck
vertically stretched
marine blue
streaked in the white spume
of those fingers he had insisted
could be forgiven and even, in a truce, given.

The snake rises to her neck
a bitch on a leash
she sniffs her way to the lake
runs towards its howling
finds its insides deep petrol-black
drunk off what purple gums seep.

The oxidising oil rigs smile
stained chimó teeth
only to spread further disease.

She stares at Lago Maracaibo
wants to hurt her for having let herself be hurt
the way her mother would.

¿where do we go now, hija?
¿where can we wash this hate away?

The boa
peels itself and slithers away
when a newborn calf limps across their path
it disappears
a speeding truck
in the lightless tunnel
that is its gullet.


Published 13th of March 2024


About Nathalia Samhil Gonzalez Gutierrez

Nathalia Samhil Gonzalez Gutierrez is a Venezuelan, London-based poet who examines how political structures manifest within intimate relationships. She is the Oxford University Alastair Mcbain Scholar for International Human Rights Law, a co-organiser at the Feminist Latin American Assembly (FALA), and co-facilitates workshops on bilingual, Spanglish writing. She is a 2023 Barbican Young Poet, and mentored under the Nuevo Sol collective for Latinx writers in London | | @natysgg