In a Pentecostal church, weeping women play the tambourine. We watch them writhe and sing from
the hotel balcony, the music faint against the rustle of palms, the incantation of night frogs. Co-qui co-qui.
O soul, why do you feel so ragged? Everywhere—a violent fecundity. I draw a sun on your sunburn. In
the bioluminescent bay, we are light itself. A glow so blue, the jelly of you quivers and quivers.
Mosquitoes feast on our softest parts. In the morning, the faithful speak tongues on the beach, their
hands open to the nothingness of the horizon. A black horse defecates in the ocean and the green sunset
strums the finest wires inside us. I hold this all like paper sewn together. A brief happiness as fierce as
the wet muscles of a horse. At dinner we pick at the shiny fish skins. We drink the piss-rum. We use
words like tongue flowers.
You wear faded black
and paint your face as white as the blessed
teeth of Jesus
because brown isn’t high art
unless you are a beautiful savage.
All the useless tautologies— This is me. I am this. I am me.
In your ragged
Salvation Army sweaters, in your brilliant
awkwardness. White dresses
like Emily Dickinson.
I dreaded that first Robin,
so, at fifteen you slash your wrists.
You’re not allowed
to shave your legs in the hospital.
that year: sometimes you exist
and sometimes you think you’re Mrs. Dalloway.
This is bold—existing.
You do not understand your parents
who understand you less.
Your father who listens to ABBA after work,
your mother who eats expired food.
How do you explain what you have done?
With your hybrid mouth, a split tongue.
How do you explain the warmth
sucking you open, leaving you
like a gutted machine?
It is a luxury to tell a story.
How do you explain
that the words are made by more
than your wanting?
Te chingas o te jodes.
At times when you speak Spanish, your tongue
At the hospital they are calling your name
with an accent on the E. They bring you
tacos, a tiny golden crucifix.
Your father has run
all the way from the factory.
ERIKA L. SÁNCHEZ is a Fulbright Scholar, CantoMundo Fellow, and winner of the “Discovery”/Boston Review Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Pleiades, Witness, Anti-, Hunger Mountain, Crab Orchard Review, diode, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Copper Nickel, Boston Review, “Latino USA” on NPR, and is forthcoming in Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poems for the Next Generation (Penguin 2015). Her nonfiction has been published in The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Rolling Stone, Salon, NBC News, Cosmopolitan, and many others.
Photo credit: Marzena Abrahamik