Erika L. Sánchez




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.




The atmosphere


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

is flaccid.



            sin vergüenza




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