By E.R. Sanchez

Heriberta Sanchez,
born to a father spitting agave needles at her.
She didn’t speak for ten years,
stuttering cancels importance.
Female expectations
mean the oldest receives punishment for sibling mistakes
while working like la Cenicienta,
scrubbing floors for her wicked Stepmother.
She watches her teen mother taking thirty years old fists
for love, withering behind sewing needles,
making clothes for everyone in el rancho.
Heriberta’s father forces her to sweep the shaded area,
where families swap stories over homemade mescal.
She dreams, she will walk to the convent,
better educated than wives speaking of cooking and cleaning,
because she hears that in America, woman are free to learn
and live independent, a place where you can catch money with effort.
She vomits the day her father tells her she’s getting married
to an uncle in Arteaga, Michoacan.
Her mother wipes her face and with glistening eyes says,
“Yo se mija, vete, I’ve always dreamed of running.”

So, she runs,
sheds tradition for freedom,
gathers an older brother, Calletano,
and a younger sister, Hermelinda.
They steal two goats from their father
and sell ‘em to pay a coyote, driving the border,
loaded tight as kilos, eyes pressed against unknown spine,
“Don’t breathe,
don’t make a sound,
don’t move!”
Van stops, unloads in a safe house.
The oldest, Nicho, came five years ago through fences,
pays smugglers.

Life in America didn’t translate
to glass slippers for ballroom dancers.
She receives a broom, Windex, squeegee ,
and babysits to pay Nicho back.
As she cleans that last window,
she meets a Prince with curly black hair,
Ernesto Ruedas, a young capitalist from Mexico
in America since age five.
Their souls meet and eat dinner,
laugh at words hung in the air by turtle doves,
whisper of dreams that hold hands
while looking over their white fence,
yet she fears she will die like her mother,
before an elder husband,
silent teen finally rests.
Ernesto forces Heriberta
to marry him or abort their child,
she looks at the clock,
sees it’s almost twelve and says,
“No,” backed by agave needles.

Heriberta becomes a nanny,
scrubs for her Fairy Godmother,
Mrs. Kathleen Brown.
Nine months pass,
contemplation over giving boy to the Browns,
he exits screaming,
she only wishes to know if it’s a boy with 20 digits.
A life of full-time
stares at her,
she walks in selfish shoes,
leaves him with the Browns,
while shadowing his first steps.
Her son begins to love his wealthy yard,
wanting to flee,
his first hello melts iron from her heart.

She reclaims her boy;
Spanish is foreign to him.
He looks at her wondering why the nanny is crying
as they drive away from his home.
Her new name,
sounds forced