shows I’m dressed for worship. My sins:
so many I lie in losing count. Enter
the cathedral between my thighs
and inside a box, and inside the box
 
red silk. Red silk: my blood. Forgiveness
lets me wear a crown in public.
Forgiveness lets me wear
my blood in pubic. Will you
 
take my little box of blood? It is blood
I found on a street near the red
looming X of Juárez. Will you take it?
I can’t bear it between my thighs
 
any longer. Please take my blood,
so in silt-stricken water I can die
the way my mother taught me
to dye silk, with the pulped red petals
 
of a yucca in spring. She taught me
to die, but not to bleed because
a woman’s body bleeds without injury.
I lie down in the desert & pull red silk
 
from the cathedral between my thighs.
I spend all day dying, not from the bite
of a snake on my head, but from the red
silk bridges collapsing between my fingers.
People who crave the jaw
& not the fox’s gentle tail—
         his land mine

           of teeth; a temporary exit
for those who yearn to return to the coyote’s
                 tent to reclaim their belongings—
the chopped head, the neck
before it was plucked from the rest of the body
like a hen’s for dinner. Antique shops 

         for raccoons’ clawed feet;
                                                    a necklace
for a woman in labor. After the snow melts
the dead return to their natural habitats—
eyes barely shut under the charcoal, whiskers
                                   trapped in the pinecones.
Some secrets are better rolled into the mouths

          of strangers
          when they sleep. A father can make up
suffering’s seasons: leave in the afternoon,
then sneak in through a windowless frame— 

though these, too, can be called winter & fall
          & held by a child’s contemptuous hands
in a garden where only the wind
can be torn from branches.   

                                             Did they really mean
to leave us shipwrecked—those sailors
who recognized flesh but not what the flesh
                                    can camouflage? People covet

the mandible as it’s handed down
          for all to drink from. In his hands
I appear dead—
but here, here in my chest, is where my father
           finds the new continent

           of directions measured in forgiveness.
I sleep in the wilderness,
like a fox loitering in a frozen meadow,
                                         & I’ll feed him forgiveness
                                                                    if he asks.

Finally Theseus said it.

It was after he punched the door
and crowned his fist with bruises, after

he showered for the first time in days,
gingerly like a raccoon,

his dollar shaver suddenly jumping ship,
delicate from his shaving cream’s sea-foam touch,

Kanye’s “Heartless” playing on loop,

door open, steam on every surface;
after his mother called via FaceTime

and his therapist via Skype, and he was hopeful,
and I was hopeful, and we were late to every party

because he was bleeding, bleeding from
his head to his hands,

like Christ without clear cause.

O that his arms could shine
like shields at some local Subway,

slamming tubs of antibiotic meat
before the middle class who hope to be happy. Surely

he would miss the cashmere call of the Banana Republic,

and the pills hopping like cufflinks in his hand
and the women who are desirable

because they’re both sweet
and mean. Like him, when he said,

I want to die,

from a position of great advantage.

From Virgin by Analicia Sotelo (Minneapolis, Milkweed Editions, 2018). Copyright (c) 2018 Analicia Sotelo. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. http://milkweed.org
         Rattlesnake Creek, FL

At first, you said no when I told you
I found taillights, halves of soda cans,
weathered glass in the creek—how one time

I kicked a water moccasin out of a sunken car
radiator, as if this were a surefire way
of convincing you to come. I thought it would

never happen, until you asked me if I was free.
It was June, I was jobless, and you were the one
asking. From the car door to the river,

we were the kind of quiet that stutters inside
an idling engine. We dragged our feet
upstream through braids of water,

ankles like fallen branches carving rifts
in the flow. We stopped at deposits,
shallow gradients where we could read the stream

over a pillow, where the shark teeth collect.
Our knees dug into the riverbed, mosquitoes
latched onto arms, our hands pleasure curled calices.

We lifted fistfuls of sediment, fingers sweeping,
straining, and sifting sieves picking out teeth: fossilized
ray, serrated edges of prehistoric tiger sharks—

remnants of a time when this whole state
was a hidden landmass, rising up from the sea.
When the sun folded over the canopy line,

I lifted a white shark’s tooth from the bottom—
tall as a thumb, crown from wet shale,
broad chevron decorating the base with a stripe

of Miocene perfection. We ran our fingertips
over ridges, a primal texture like nothing
I’d ever touched before. Feet sunk

in the mud of that afternoon, our nerves
shed like wet clothes, you spilled over me
like silt. I held what felt like millions of years

converging in one place—your right hand
an open bloom. I set the fossil in your palm
like it was fate, this hollow space only I could fill.
​—Samuel Beckett identifies the problem.
 
Without a cigarette habit,
no way to exit a room,
 
now Rorschached
with oil spots
that at some point in the night
were faces.
 
Outside the bar I can answer the question
Are you in love?
 
I AM IN LOVE
floats like skywriting
over the dilapidated smoke
of Camel Blues.
 
A Chihuahua licks my boots
like a servant, grossly abased.
A man walks up and says
Do you two know each other?
 
The dog and I have an ill-defined
intimacy, but I love him
or her, or them.
I confess to you my inadequacies. I want to tell you things I do not know about myself. I’ve made promises to people whom I will never see again. I’ve cried in an airport bathroom stall in El Paso, TX when immigration denied my father’s application. It felt like a mathematical equation—everything on one side needed to equal everything on the other. It almost made sense to be that sad. I am not compelled to complicate this metaphor. I’m selling this for two dollars. Years ago, on my birthday, I came out to my friends. I thought about the possibility of painting their portraits. What a stupid idea. I’ve started to cover up certain words with Barbie stickers in my journal. It occurs to me, sitting in my car, at a Dollar General parking lot, in search of cheap balloons for a party which I do not care about, that I am allowed my own joy. I pick the brightest balloons, pay, drive home and dress for the party. I mouth the words happy birthday to you in a dark room lit by everyone’s phone cameras. Afterwards, I enter all of my emails from five years into a cloud engine and the most used word is ok. I confess that I have had a good life. I spend many nights obsessing over the placement of my furniture. I give you my boredom. I give you my obligation. I give you the night I danced and danced and danced at a child’s birthday party, drunk and by myself. I’ve been someone else’s shame. It’s true, at its core, amá was deported because she was hit by a car. For years to come, this will be the ending of a sad joke she likes to tell. I laugh each time she tells the joke to strangers. Something about how there is more metal than bone in her arm. Something about a magnet. She says I thought I had died and death meant repeating a name forever. She says el jardin encierra la boca de mis pasos. But this is a bad translation. It’s more like I felt like a star, I felt like somebody famous.
I will never know my abuela,
but I know her eyes.
She dug her mother's shoes out
from graying snowbanks, pulled

that black-shawled woman from glass.
Fingers, stained with banana leaves,
blistered under hard twine.
Men lined up outside her door,

dragging hungry wives and children.
One said, ella es la reina de Harlem.
One said, she's a beggar's filthy palm.
She never fed them all.

They groped the doorframe and pried
the lock, but all she could say was
duerme duerme duerme.
And she'd dream too, of fawns lying

by roads outside the city. That they leapt
towards her, their eyes black or missing;
she feared the impossible angle of their necks.
I know she woke from this dream

with a son in her arms and her womb
on a table. I know she did not ask for this.
And yet: her body, with its dimpled crags,
she admired. She even admired her son,

with his roped knuckles, and the daughter
who was not her daughter. But the space
between her belly and spine was still
empty: a discarded ring.
It was dusk for kilometers and bats in the lavender sky, 
      like spiders when a fly is caught, began to appear.

And there, not the promised land, but barbwire and barbwire
 
      with nothing growing under it. I tried to fly that dusk

after a bat said la sangre del saguaro nos seduce. Sometimes
      I wake and my throat is dry, so I drive to botanical gardens
 

to search for red fruit clutched to saguaros, the ones at dusk
      I threw rocks at for the sake of slashing hunger.
 

But I never find them here. These bats say speak English only.
      Sometimes in my car, that viscous red syrup

clings to my throat, and it’s a tender seed toward my survival:
 
      I also scraped needles first, then carved those tall torsos

for water, then spotlights drove me and thirty others dashing
      into palos verdes, green-striped trucks surrounded us,
 

our empty bottles rattled and our breath spoke with rust.
      When the trucks left, a cold cell swallowed us.
every pair, a valley/the caravan of the body, stalled, meaty as flour sacks/i have held
many things to the stalwart of trees, i have leaked my sap wide/but look at the mess
i’ve watered for you/licorice spooled, lengthened and medieval/in the dream of this,
we are dehydrated eels, copper as money/in the song, emaciated bata drums, policia
nacional rolling tooth-shaped dice/it is near-game, this tracking of pulse and surplus/
when your country says give, you drain despite the clots.
Below the river, Brooklyn bound,
I hold his poems in one hand
and the cold overhead bar in the other,

reading to myself on the crowded
evening train when a sudden heaving
pulls me from the text. I look up

to see a young man seated with his head
lolling between his knees to the rhythm of the train,
Yankee cap pulled low over his face,

vomiting onto his shoes. Everyone
scatters to the adjacent compartments,
lift scarves up to their noses as they exit.

The vomit stretches like an evening shadow
down one end of the car and I walk towards
the other, lay down on a now vacant bench.

The train sways lightly like a hammock.
Beneath a sun-marred window blossoming
with jewels of frost, I begin to read aloud.
we are gathered in truce
to discuss our differences,
my therapist seated between us.

my roadrunner legs point
past the door in case. we
are gathered in truth,

because my therapist said
it was time to stop running, &
i pay my therapist too much

to be wrong, so i am here.
in case my therapist is right.
my monsters, coyotes in the

chase, look almost human
in the sterile office light.
my monsters say they just

want to be friends. i remember
when we first met, me & my
monsters. i remember the moment

i birthed each one. each time
i tried to shed a piece of myself,
it grew into a monster. take this

one with the collar of belly fat
around its neck, the monster
called Chubby, Husky, Big Boy.

i climbed out of that skin as fast
as i could, only to see some spirit
give it legs. i ran & it never stopped

chasing me. each new humiliation
coming to life & following after me.
after me, a long procession of sad

monsters. each monster hungry
to drag me back, to return me
to the dirt i came from. ashes

to ashes, fat boy to fat.
i point my feet to the nearest
exit, all my fire alarms go off.

my monsters crowd around me,
i stare into a no-fun house of mirrors
showing me all the angles i try

to forget. my therapist says i can’t
make the monsters disappear
no matter how much i pay her.

all she can do is bring them
into the room, so i can get
to know them, so i can learn

their names, so i can see
clearly their toothless mouths,
their empty hands, their pleading eyes.
raul & i drive by a yellow sign that reads cuidado–no exponga su vida a los elementos–no vale                   la pena. we pass          a mountain where, tucked away in a place that the relentless sun     cannot reach, the direction & miles            left to the border    are scratched into a boulder.                          raul tells me that yesterday, under a creosote,              he found a knapsack holding                   only a light bulb & a battered bible.       the body was nearby,             so far from god. the legs                        consumed by cramps. the skin wrung             of its sweat. all the water escaping                           the body to try & keep           it cool. the clothes stitched      onto his skin by the sun. last night’s                  full moon a final eucharist his mouth               could not reach. he had a name,                       santos. he also had a wife. or maybe        it was a mother, or a sister,            or a daughter. the wallet didn’t say. we stop at a white crucifix           staked into the ground          where there are no roads       & leave twelve bottles         of water & twelve pears. raul tells me   that he once found                                  an entire skeleton in torn clothes,        the sneakers still tied        to its feet. on our way back       to the orto lado             a flash flood rushes across         the road in front us. we stop,                                      step out, & face it. we leave               the truck running, the speakers aching          y volver             volver. sweat collects at the base           of the gold crucifix necklace           underneath my shirt.                  the rains are short but so heavy,            i say. right raul?                  nests of gila woodpeckers poke         their heads out of a saguaro. i look          at their curious eyes.            raul, i say & the saguaro     blooms. i stare back                   at the flood. i say my mother’s name,         cristina, & desert marigolds crack through a boulder. i say           my father’s name, martin,         & all the novena candles                       in the bed of the truck are aglow.                         i say santos & in a pair of footprints                       in the sand a man is built up      from the part of his body      that touched this earth most.                   i say the names             of my tias, tios, primos, & a bronzed mass            dressed in white rises       from the rushing flood.  their backs are turned to me,           they wear my family’s shoulders.       they head north. before them     the white obelisk marking       the line in the ground                                   crumbles. before them the metal                      fences dissolve like mist.