Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Analicia Sotelo





Philosopher King

He said, “Once, when I thought of the
moon, I thought of luminous shelter. Then I
flew there, and I wasn’t the only man.
Women in yellow tulle were riding bicycles
in the shadow of the sun while men rode in
on tiny black horses. I hate how everyone is
either a tiny black horse or a big fat gnat,
sans fucking purpose. I’ve been reading
Fear and Trembling all night, and I thought
of you reading in your room with your
parents asleep. You’re innocent, so maybe
you won’t believe me, but I did this thing I
never should have done, which was throw a
knife at my father, and I thought you should
know. I need to clarify. There’s more to this
world than movies and orchards. You know
what I’m saying. Let me sing you our song–
I like New York in June, how about you?


Private Property

In this minor emergency of the self,
we drink to become confused,
to swim in the dark like idiot fish.

This is a lake at night in a forest.

This is where we look up at the stains
in the sky and someone says, It’s purpling out here,
and someone else says, Someone write that down.

We’re all performing our bruises.

Chloe smiles like a specialty knife,
Bea tells stories like a bubbly divorcee,
Clara smokes like a sage in her coiffed towel,
expertly naked, third eye shining.

I hang back on the shore with Kyle.
We talk about his man in New York
while our skinny-dipping sirens
sing show tunes in the violet dark.
Later, we’re all in a clinic at 3 a.m.
handling Kyle’s broken ankle.
It’s so embarrassing, he keeps saying.

And it is: Earlier, doing the sprinkler
in a dorm room to Please Don’t Stop the Music,
he kept yelling, Stop the Music! Stop the Music!
until we understood: he wasn’t actually joking.

And sometimes the poems were like that.
When we wrote knife, bubbly, naked,
we were really getting down,
dancing hard on the injury.


Father Fragments (Or, Yellow Ochre)

I was with my father for a whole weekend, the first

and last time. The sun scattered over the striated cement

as my mother nervously                        clasped my hand. We

left her: the roads

became a room with only one lamp —


He smelled of clay and soft eraser,

and I did not know him,                                 but I loved him

like I loved my heartbeat,

that original invisible companion.


Everything between the years of 3 and 5
was filled with one color: yolk

______ran through the hallways like a trial of light.


All the other colors: muted:

______like me, around relatives.

Their distorted faces were loud coins
I couldn’t understand                         But my father—

I used to imagine him swimming through copper
just to get to me.

And we would have a celebration there
_______________—our two minds reunited in the yard

Actually I was a child; I imagined him cinematically lifting me


I held my mother’s vessel:

Be careful
Be careful
Don’t talk to anyone
Don’t let him out of sight

I mean a five-year old can only be one

___________of two things: careful or

___________too careful, right?


Wishing I could remember where we were going
on that trip that tunnel of shadows
chess games    relatives
then road
then nothing then no one
a hallway of amniotic light
a large woman saying everything
is fine but I remember the room the hardwoods
the mattress the one yellow lamp and my father there
just before I slept I wish I could remember where
we were going my father and I were going


At the museum,
we pass the garden first,
walk under steel rectangular limbs,
push off the deadweight of the mansion doors.

The place, like me, had its visitation days.

My father loved it | My mother loved it

the iconography on the second floor | had high arches
and in those arches | a family | and sequestered there too
a chastening swallow | with eyes like ticking globes
so | the child looked from one to the next carefully
at the wooden eye sockets | the century’d dust | asked
why is this like this | why keep things this way | we have
to know what happened | was their answer each time


He did come back that day, but the memory was already made.

Wake up,
said my mother,
and the bed lifted into

______________________my later years.

Wake up, says some man,
and I fall hard

onto the mattress where I wake

______________________in a panic again

but he’s right outside.
Not right for me, but right outside.


The room where my father left me was the idea of

______four walls, one mattress, and he,

______the idea of father,
______the absence of room.

For years I felt the ghost of someone not dead in every

Father—with his cool, bronze heart.


Which one is better? he says.

I choose the nineteenth century bust
with the kind eyes, hair curling
like a necklace at the nape,

because I think she is delicate like me,
but I do not wish to say it.

That one is conventional, he says.

He explains conventional,
how it takes the lines
of our original beauty and erases it.

He points out the sharp, irregular lines of the other,
says patina with care, like it’s a woman’s name.

This one is art. This is what art looks like.


My stepfather and I listening to music on country roads
after middle school football games:

__________________How did midnight feel like safety?

So much so that I could call him dad
and never stop wanting to call him dad?

He previewed each song with a translation I could understand:

one man after another, mistaking music for life.
Maybe he sacrificed something to be my father, but thank God.


I remember: the room was too hot.
The woman in the hallway was heavy-set, German. Kind?
The hallway was one long exposure.

How can I tell you what it was like (four years old)
to sleep with my father by my side?
Like the only thing I’d ever wanted.

You may wish to make some connection
between father and lover here, as if your joke
could really be my life’s solution, or as if

I haven’t already done that, in a cuter way.
Many men have questioned my ability to sleep well
with anyone. But I was frightened of the room,

not of my father. Because the room was art itself
and I knew my father would always come back to it,
just as I would always come back to this room, this window.


From Virgin by Analicia Sotelo (Minneapolis, Milkweed Editions, 2018). Copyright © 2018 Analicia Sotelo. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. Photograph of Analicia Sotelo by Brooke Lightfoot.

Analicia Sotelo is the author of Virgin, the inaugural winner of the Jake Adam York Prize, selected by Ross Gay, to be published by Milkweed Editions in February 2018. She is also the author of the chapbook, Nonstop Godhead, selected by Rigoberto González for a 2016 Poetry Society of America National Chapbook Fellowship. Her poem “I’m Trying to Write a Poem About a Virgin and It’s Awful” was selected for Best New Poets 2015 by Tracy K. Smith. Poems have also appeared in the New Yorker, Boston Review, FIELD, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and The Antioch Review. She is the 2016 DISQUIET International Literary Prize winner in poetry and is the recipient of scholarships from the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the Image Text Ithaca Symposium. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston. More from this author →