Listen:

I discipline my waist
and lean

against the heated coconut.

The day is gray as a face,
and my sin

clear as the hoofmarks
in the carmine.

What is God to me

but an open-mouthed
stranger?

I stepped across a viper
and still

the forked tongue
flickers in my hollow.

You see, my lust

will never
know death nor harvest:

elixir of hellebore, colocynth
salt, stick,

and mouse shit.

I run in circles
and bathe in the hateful river.

This grain, this
wild greedy thing

he’s left me plumping

so paltry
and mulish.

Mercury, mandrake—

I am only a girl

with this brilliant black
nest of eagerness.

Over and over, my mother
calls to me,

my name

a reckless ribbon
in the gloaming.

When the clouds part
like stupid lovers,

I close my eyes and press
myself against

the eucalyptus tree.

I let the leaches
crawl until nightfall.

Feature image by Ana Mendieta. Untitled (from the Silueta series), c. 1978. Gelatin silver print, 16 × 20 in. (40.6 × 50.8 cm). Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund, 1995.112. © MCA Chicago.

Erika L. Sanchez

Erika L. Sánchez is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer. Her young adult novel is forthcoming in fall 2017. Her nonfiction has appeared in Al Jazeera, the Guardian, Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan, and many others. She has received a CantoMundo fellowship, a “Discovery”/Boston Review prize, and a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg poetry fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Her first collection of poetry, Lessons on Expulsion: Poems, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in fall 2017.