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By Erika L. Sánchez


My fury was born
in the forest.

I refuse to explain.

I draw a machete
to a cloud

and say,

chíngate pues.

What do I want
besides everything?

What is there besides this
endless heap of rags

to scrub against
the river-rocks?

—Time hangs from the wrists—

In exchange for rain, the blood.

Puro cuento; nothing but gods
winded by their own pomp.

The poison is feathered
and placed gently
in my throat.

In the distance, an eagle
holds a bloody woman

in its beak.

I scrape nopales all day
to feed an insatiable hunger.

What else is there to nourish me?
To nourish us?

The poor and disposable.

Cuando tu patria es tu partida.
Pues, tu sabes.

What they don’t know
is everything.

I move with the stealth
of the mushroom.

I am not the first and
I will not be the last.

My pain is creased.
Cracked knee. Cracked neck. Cracked back.

The mountain becomes
the story—

See, the urge to astound is as ancient
as glass.

As ancient as the fire
I was told to swallow.

Look at me. Me mortifico.

There has never been
a beginning,

a place to point to and say,

There it is.

Past, present, and future are three sisters

Running hand in hand
through a valley.

They are laughing.


Erika L. Sánchez
Commissioned by the Goodman Theatre, in collaboration with
The Poetry Foundation, in relation to their production of LUCHA TEOTL, for their 23/24 season
October 2023


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ABOUT the poet


Erika L. Sánchez is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a Chicago-based poet, novelist, and essayist. Her debut poetry collection, Lessons on Expulsion, was published by Graywolf in July 2017, and was a finalist for the PEN America Open Book Award. Her debut young adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, published in October 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers, was a New York Times bestseller, a National Book Awards finalist and Tomás Rivera Award winner. Time has recognized it as one of the best YA novels of all time. It is now is being made into a film directed by America Ferrera. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter has also been adapted to the theater at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago and Seattle Rep Theater. Most recently Sánchez published a critically acclaimed memoir-in-essays titled Crying in the Bathroom with Viking Books. It won the Chicago Review of Books Nonfiction award in 2022. Sánchez was a Fulbright Scholar, a 2015 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent fellow from the Poetry Foundation, a 2017-2019 Princeton Arts Fellow, a 2018 recipient of the 21st Century Award from the Chicago Public Library Foundation and a 2019 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.