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Erika L. Sánchez

Erika L. Sánchez is the author of Lessons on Expulsion (Graywolf Press, 2017). She earned an MFA from the University of New Mexico and is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a CantoMundo Fellowship, the 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review Prize, and a 2015 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. She is the recipient of a 2019 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a Princeton Arts Fellow and lives in Plainsboro, New Jersey.

Erika L. Sánchez
Photo credit: Robyn Lindemann

By This Poet

3

Six Months After Contemplating Suicide

Admit it—
you wanted the end 

with a serpentine 
greed. How to negotiate

that strangling 
mist, the fibrous
 
whisper?

To cease to exist 
and to die

are two different things entirely. 

But you knew this, 
didn't you?

Some days you knelt on coins 
in those yellow hours. 

You lit a flame

to your shadow 
and ate

scorpions with your naked fingers. 

So touched by the sadness of hair
in a dirty sink.

The malevolent smell 
of soap. 

When instead of swallowing a fistful
of white pills,

you decided to shower, 

the palm trees
nodded in agreement,

a choir 
of crickets singing 

behind your swollen eyes.

The masked bird 
turned to you 

with a shred of paper hanging 
from its beak.

At dusk, 
hair wet and fragrant,

you cupped a goat's face

and kissed 
his trembling horns. 

The ghost? 

It fell prostrate,
passed through you 

like a swift 
and generous storm.

Saudade

In the republic of flowers I studied
the secrets of hanging clothes I didn't
know if it was raining or someone
was frying eggs I held the skulls
of words that mean nothing you left
between the hour of the ox and the hour
of the rat I heard the sound of two
braids I watched it rain through
a mirror am I asking to be spared
or am I asking to be spread your body
smelled like cathedrals and I kept
your photo in a bottle of mezcal
semen-salt wolf’s teeth you should have
touched my eyes until they blistered
kissed the skin of my instep for thousands
of years sealed honey never spoils
won’t crystallize I saw myself snapping
a swan's neck I needed to air out
my eyes the droplets on a spiderweb
and the grace they held who gave me
permission to be this person to drag
my misfortune on this leash made of gold

All of Us

Every day I am born like this—
No chingues. Nothing happens
for the first time. Not the neon
sign that says vacant, not the men
nor the jackals who resemble them.
I take my bones inscribed by those 
who came before, and learn 
to court myself under a violence 
of stars. I prefer to become demon, 
what their eyes cannot. Half of me 
is beautiful, half of me is a promise
filled with the quietest places. 
Every day I pray like a dog
in the mirror and relish the crux 
of my hurt. We know Lilith ate
the bones of her enemies. We know 
a bitch learns to love her own ghost.

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