Erin’s River

     Written by Leo D. Martinez 
     Illustrated by Seyilayo Olagbami 

     Est. Reading Time: 9 mins 

In the mountains near Las Matas, a farmer was traveling on his donkey to sell his yucas; he usually would take the long way around the mountains, but on that fateful day, he chose to take a shortcut between them. Later, when he was imprisoned on charges of sodomy, a crime against the Lord, in a humid cell on top of a hill, he vowed to never tell what he had experienced. He would rather die than speak, and he made peace with that.

Waiting for his judgment, he sat near the sweet-smelling corpse of another prisoner who had died of heatstroke. The farmer could not resist the sweet juice oozing from the pores and tasted a piece of the thumb. His tongue savored the softness, like eating the forbidden fruit. But memories of Erín flooded back, and he had to restrain himself. But his heart would not let him forget what they had shared by the river.

The farmer knew his first mistake had been taking a right when he should have taken a left. Those were the parts the people of Las Matas warned to avoid. Between the mountains was where Lilith and her children thrived. Before putting their children to sleep, parents told stories of carnal sins, poisonous rivers, animals eating their own children, and queer spirits. And before anyone would leave the safety of the town, they prayed to the Archangels to protect them; on returning, they washed the evil hiding between the toes. If anyone was found guilty of bringing it inside, they were hanged.

The farmer did not believe those stories, believing instead in his own powers. Nothing to fear when the Lord is by your side, his grandma used to say, and he repeated the phrase like a prayer when he took a right and entered the wilderness. For hours, he and his donkey stayed on the narrow path until the low-hanging branches tried to wrap man and beast in their budding flowers. The trees then knocked down his yucas, but it was too late for him to turn back and retrieve them because the trees were fusing together so that the path was disappearing. The donkey, sensing the danger, sped to an opening of a meadow of tall grass and purple hibiscus. To the left, there was a beautiful river that reflected the blue sky and white clouds. The sun shined on the green and gold land. Red and black bugs bounced in the air.

The donkey lay down from exhaustion and munched on the grass while the farmer went to wash the sweat from his face. But before he dipped his hands, looking at his reflection, he saw a person wrapped in chains, trapped underwear. He reached in, pulled them out, and removed the heavy chains. As he pumped their chest, the person coughed out water, bugs, cowrie shells, round stones, snakes, and broken bones.

The farmer could not stop staring at the shivering body. They looked exactly alike: the same coffee-colored skin, full lips, coarse chest hair, skinny calves, large ears, uncircumcised penis. Fascinated, he cupped their chin and opened their eyelids. The same green eyes. The person sat up, opened his mouth, but could not speak. Their hands beckoned the farmer to come closer.

Can you talk? Do you know who you are?

They grabbed the farmer’s head and brought their lips together. Resistant at first, he gave in to the sweetness, his taste buds blooming open. He wanted more, but they pushed him off. A strand of spider-silk saliva stretched between them until it broke.

Yes, they call me Erín. Now they both had the same voice.

The farmer and Erín sat down and put their feet in the cool water as Erín explained why they had been chained in the river.

I had a jealous lover. She was older, older than the ocean—she captured me and chained me to the bottom of this river, she said she loved me so much that she didn’t want to share me with anyone, so she took everything I had inside and abandoned me here for centuries after she got bored. I thought I would never feel the wind again…I am grateful that you found me, my savior. What is your history?

The farmer, already a man of few words, didn’t know what to say.

I was on my way to Las Matas to sell my yucas—

No, what is your family’s history? Where did you come from?

The farmer stared into the distance as he contemplated. On the other side of the river, he saw a two-legged beast with the head of a goat, body of a panther, and tail of a snake eating the body of a smaller beast. He thought it was a mother eating her child.

I was told we came from a different land and that when our ancestors were shipped here in chains, they escaped and moved into these mountains. My father and mother died in a fire, and my grandma raised me until she died in her sleep. I inherited her land, and now I grow yucas.

Do you grow any fruits? Chinolas, mangos, guavas?

No, only yucas.

Do you have a wife, any children?

The farmer shook his head. Never married. I have myself and my land, that is enough.

But what gives you joy? Who gives you pleasure?

I do not need any of that, I said I have myself and my land.

But, my savior, is that all you know?

Erín placed their hand on the farmer’s back and leaned in. Their soft touch sent tremors through his body, swelling his veins. As the prison guards later chopped off his thumbs, the farmer would later realize that this moment of weakness had been his second mistake.

I know more, I know the story of when my grandma lived in the Capital.

Do you remember it? Can you tell me?

The farmer closed his eyes and sang his grandma’s story.

My neighbors said I was a witch. They said they saw growing herbs for black magic in my garden. I was watering my flowers. The soldiers came and dragged me by my hair to a hot cellar. An ugly man stripped me of my clothes. Two men dressed in all black came in. Their hands went over my body. Grabbed my breasts and thighs. Put their dirty white fingers in my mouth. Twisted my ankle. Went deep inside of me—like looking for a treat. They finished and said, A witch! Bring the rod! The ugly man came back with a bright blue rod. He branded me on my stomach right here…

His grandma’s words brought up a sadness that closed his throat. He wanted to cry but blocked his tears from flowing. In the distance, he saw a large serpent swallowing the mother beast, her snake tail dangling outside until it was eaten too.

Erín held the farmer’s hands and rubbed his palms. I can see you have your grandma’s anger trapped in you, does it hurt?

Yes, it does, he mumbled. 

Come, let me make you feel better.

Under their magic, the farmer was led behind a tree.

Erín and the farmer made a love that was balanced. Erín penetrated the farmer, and the farmer penetrated Erín, giving and receiving the same amount. No one was on top or bottom. They fused together and made a four-legged beast. Both finished at the same time, their silky sperm staining the ground. In the background, the donkey drank the water from the river.

Lying together and covered in their mess, the farmer, feeling the warmth of Erín in his arms, got an anxious urge to leave. The intimate experience that their body shared bothered him like a needle in the eye. He whistled for his donkey. It obeyed and went to the farmer.

I feel better, but I need to go.

I want to come with you!

No, you cannot come, what happened here cannot follow me.

Please don’t leave me by myself!

The farmer walked away, but Erín sobbed so violently that he turned around. They looked at each other, and seeing himself in Erín’s eyes, the farmer noticed that he did not look like himself. Then Erín punched him in the head and knocked him out. He would later realize that looking back had been his third mistake as he cried for his grandma. He saw her spirit flying into the cell and possessed the sweet-smelling prisoner. She held him so tight that his tears soaked the flesh. He chewed on the lips to soothe himself to sleep.

When the farmer woke up, Erín, his donkey, his clothes, and the sun were gone. There was no moon, either. He washed his face in the river but could not see his reflection. Then he walked back into the mountains and didn’t stop walking until finding Las Matas the next morning. Upon seeing him, the people cried for his arrest. The crowd said that he was the one who was seducing the men in public. Soldiers slammed him to the floor. Stomped on his chest. Kicked his ribs. Put their feet on his neck. Tied his legs and arms. Gagged his mouth. Pissed on him. Called him a faggot. Threw him inside the wagon. Locked him inside the cell. There were too many witnesses saying they had seen him do what he was accused of. He wanted to tell them an honest account of what had happened between the mountains, but that meant telling about Erín and the intimate experience they shared behind the tree.

He kept his mouth closed and accepted his fate. To calm himself, he remembered his grandma’s words: …they branded me a witch. I knew I was innocent. They wanted me to confess. I did nothing wrong. I never said a word. They tried me every day. Told me I would be let go if I confessed. Told me they would feed me to the sharks. Told me I would die like a beast. I almost did. My silence saved me. They had to let me go because I never said a word. I went back to the mountains and grew my flowers there. Nothing to fear when the Lord is by your side.

And he had nothing to fear, because the Lord was by his side and said not a word until he was freed. He returned to his land without clothes and donkey. He isolated himself, staying away from Las Matas and rivers and eating nothing but yucas, until he died in his sleep. The state took ownership of his land in the name of Trujillo, the Dictator For Life.

Though Las Matas and the land between the mountains eventually became a city, Erín misses the love they and the farmer shared. During nights of the new moon, they crawl out of the dirty black-water river and roam the streets, crying aloud their misfortunes for hours.

People say that if you walk outside and Erín sees you, you are never seen again. So many people have disappeared, but since many of them were rumored to sleep with the same sex, no one cared.

         But if you need to go outside, which is not advisable, please make sure to wrap heavy chains around your body. The clanging will ward Erín away.

         Please protect yourself.



Published March 10, 2021
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Author’s Bio
Leo D. Martinez is an Afro Dominican-American, transfemme non-binary creative writer and literary artist based in Atlanta. Her writings explore the intersections, disconnections, and parallels of gender fluidity, bodies, nationalism, race, and Afro-syncretic spiritualities. She is on a pilgrimage of connecting with herself and the queer and trans community across the Black Diaspora.
︎ @lionodavid
︎ @leo2gay
︎ linktr.ee/leo_martinez

Hi! My name is Seyilayo. Nigerian and proud. I love to write stories, draw, and most recently I started to learn animation. My main goal is to draw things I wish to see especially when there is a lack of it.


︎Philadelphia, PA
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