poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 10, 2017.
About this Poem 

“The poem began during a trip to Portugal, where I became enamored with the traditional fado music. They say saudade is untranslatable, but it’s a word that feels like an old familiar cloak to me, because I’ve spent so much of my life ravenous for both the past and future.”
—Erika L. Sánchez

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

Copyright © 2017 by Erika L. Sánchez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Erika L. Sánchez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Erika L. Sánchez

Erika L. Sánchez

Erika L. Sánchez is the author of Lessons on Expulsion (Graywolf Press, 2017).

by this poet

poem
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
2
poem
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