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Lessons on Expulsion

By

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.

G

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Author Image

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, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in fall 2017.

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.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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