Beacon Press: For Want of Water
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For Want of Water

and other poems

Author: Sasha Pimentel   Foreword by: Gregory Pardlo

Searing verses set on the Mexican border about war and addiction, love and sexual violence, grief and loss, from an American Book Award–winning author.  Selected by Gregory Pardlo as winner of the National Poetry Series.
El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States, while across the river, Ciudad Juárez suffers a history of femicides and a horrific drug war. Witnessing this, a Filipina’s life unravels as she tries to love an addict, the murders growing just a city—but the breadth of a country—away. This collection weaves the personal with recent history, the domestic with the tragic, asking how much “a body will hold,” reaching from the border to the poet’s own Philippines. These poems thirst in the desert, want for water, searching the brutal and tender territories between bodies, families, and nations.

About the Series

Established in 1978, the National Poetry Series is a literary awards program which sponsors the publication of five books of poetry each year. The manuscripts, solicited through an annual Open Competition, are selected by poets of national stature and published by a distinguished group of trade, university, and small presses.
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“In this urgent and lyrically astute new compilation, Philippines-born Pimentel, winner of the American Book Award for Insides She Swallowed, writes about the huge divide between El Paso, TX, and murder-slicked, drug war-ravaged Juarez directly across the Rio Grande. . . . Affecting and well wrought; Pimentel is a poet to watch.”
Library Journal

“[Pimentel] excels at crafting a gorgeous language that drapes around the coarseness of the world.”
Publishers Weekly

“Sasha Pimentel threads the complex and intricate geographies of lives across borders: Wyoming, Montparnasse, Saudi Arabia, Ilocos, Manila, but primarily El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, where there have been more than forty-eight thousand documented fatalities and more than five thousand disappeared in relation to the drug trade. . . . The crossings Pimentel speaks of are perilous, but I am glad to have her as a guide, because she has the capacity for finding the smallest lights in the incinerated cities, shining through glass or the throats of pipes.”
—Luisa A. Igloria, author of Ode to the Heart Smaller Than a Pencil Eraser

“The poetry of Sasha Pimentel is visceral, haunting, searing. This is a poet who sees what most of us would rather not see. Her vision ranges from the thousands of women murdered in Juárez to the single boy dragging the body of his mother, dead of dehydration, across the border into New Mexico. In language of fierce compassion and tenderness, Pimentel humanizes the dehumanized. And oh, how we need such poems.”
—Martín Espada, author of Vivas to Those Who Have Failed

“Sasha Pimentel writes evocatively of our irksome obsession—the Mexican border as riddled, tempestuous demarcation between faith and melancholy, expectation and despondency, shadow and glow. El Paso and Ciudad Juárez cling to opposite sides of a hellish boundary—and the poet crafts an existence emboldened by that fracture, trumpeting the triumphs and hazards of a love that defies its ragged edict. No other poet has dared this landscape with such a deft and intrepid touch, conjuring an expansive, revelatory and indispensable read. Nothing—nothing—in these pages has been done before.”
—Patricia Smith, author of Incendiary Art

Foreword by Gregory Pardlo


If I Die in Juárez
13 Ways of Knowing Her
Our First Year
My Father’s Family Fasts the Slaughter to Feast the Arrival of His Bride
The Kiss
Late September, When the Heat Releases
Meditations on Living in the Desert
Admit Impediments. Love Is Not Love
Continental Split
At a Party


A Loaf of Bread
After Dinner
The Eyes Open to a Cry
In Their Dark Habits
How to Care for a Man, Withdrawing
In Step
Because “Some Women Are
Displaced Women’s Blues
You Say You Can’t Sleep
Thai Massage
Bodies, and Other Natural Disasters
For Want of Water

Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose

How we come to smoke:
High, high, high:
Autopsy, Juárez:
Tale, two cities:
High and low:
Crack rock, a hard place:
Autopsy, us:
Drug war:
How we love to score / (buying glass pipes at the barrio store):


Sea Change
At the Symphony: 7 Things I Wish I’d Told You
[ Rules for Behaving on an Airplane ] & Simultaneous Monologue on Your Separate Grief
Last Photograph of My Mother Laughing
When in Solitude, the Surprise of Morning
Leaving the University Gym
Tuesday Night in Montparnasse
Moment in Storm
Marking. Connecting: Between Going and Stopping,—
Old Beds and Hollywood
School Terrorist Exercise, 2005


What Is Broken
Before Dawn
We’re Really Not Okay
Golden Shovel: at the Lake’s Shore, I Sit with His Sister, Resting
Grave, ma non troppo tratto
Safely Watching a Solar Eclipse with Kuya
While My Lover Rests
Touched By Dusk, We Know Better Ourselves

Lines I’ve Stolen, and Other Notes

Credits and Acknowledgments

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For Want of Water

ISBN: 978-080702785-1
Publication Date: 10/17/2017
Size:6.125 x 9.25 Inches (US)
Price:  $16.00
Format: Paperback
Availability: In stock.