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Lessons on Expulsion: Poems by Erika L.…

Lessons on Expulsion: Poems

by Erika L. Sánchez

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Erika L. Sanchez

In "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
Marquez wrote that we are birthed
by our mothers only once, but life obligates
us to give birth
to ourselves over and over.

I'm sorry, Ama.
I know you think only white people leave
their families.
I undid my braids too early, I know.
It started when the blood
began to flow,
as if something inside me
kept unraveling.

I packed my bags one night
and left without a word.
Left like a gypsy, you said.

On my way to Tehuantepec,
I think about my own birth-
my head peeking out
from my own vagina.

In my hand I hold a bird
of paradise
that I bought from a boy
at a crossing.

Ama, I think of you
as I watch mountains,
women who carry
baskets on their heads,
dresses stitchedd
with jungle patterns.

Ama, I leave because
I feel like an unfinished
poem, because I'm always trying
to bridge the difference.

Ama, I wanted to tell you
about the parade in Oaxaca
that saved me.

About how I looked for your God
then mine in the desert,
about the pomegranate I shared
with a woman on the street
whose face was brown and creased
like yours.

* * * *

Lessons on Expulsion is strong wine (or tequila). Sanchez doesn't hold back in holding forth on sex workers; the need for, satisfaction with and the sadness of sex; violence; being haunted by your family and its expectations; spirituality; and of course more. The one Quinceañera I went to was a joyous formal celebration in a church followed by a party. Sanchez's opening poem of that name smacks you between the eyes and wrenches at your heart - "the silence climbs you/like a man until you hear/the meaty flaps of God inside you." She's a rebel, from start to finish, and her poems are filled with vivid, often surreal, imagery - e.g., "the day goes on picking/ the meat from its teeth", the ending to her poem "The Loop."

All her senses are engaged, but her lot isn't an easy one. Occasionally she'll find "a brief happiness as fierce as the wet muscles of a horse." I wish I'd heard her at Women and Children First here last July. I imagine it was powerful. ( )
  jnwelch | Jan 18, 2018 |
Powerful, electric debut collection of poetry. These lyric poems passionately condemn sexual violence, economic inequality, and political marginalization, and they do so via startling metaphors, parataxis, and code switching. I read the entire volume in one sitting and plan on returning to it often. ( )
  jalbacutler | Sep 13, 2017 |
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