Poet's Sampler: Analicia Sotelo
Nov 14, 2016
8 Min read time
Exploring the complexity of being a Latinx woman in contemporary America.
In Analicia Sotelo’s work I find poems specific enough to be new while universal enough to find myself in them. Sotelo’s imagery evokes emotion, giving a glimpse into the psychology of the speaker, all the while moving along swiftly, transitioning between worlds and ideas. “I Want To Tell Them The Only Way To Make It” is an exegesis on guacamole, where the speaker prefers a traditional approach to the green super fruit. At its core, this is a poem against change, existential in nature, uniquely addressing how bequeathed rituals—what we call culture—intermingle with will, with the speaker, who crushes the aguacate and not the “avocado,” who chooses in a world full of processed additives to add only lime and salt, the humours. This poem adroitly connects idea to idea, mimetic of thought, as easily as a bird moves from branch to branch. The image of gnats as children at birthday parties makes me react with an emphatic, as Black Rob says, “whoa.” Click any poem and see beauty. In “Both the children and the dogs here have long, golden hair,” the speaker sees red hair as “blood diffused with shower water,” mixing the terrain and vernacular of the Tejano with something, quite honestly, ethereal, somewhere only the speaker inhabits—maybe a better world? That is only the first two poems; each subsequent poem unfurls the complexity of being a Latinx woman in the society we inhabit, and this singularity within our cacophony is something we need more of in poetry.
—David Tomas Martinez
I Want to Tell Them The Only Way to Make It
is to split the avocado with an absurdly large knife
in a sweeping motion like a pirouette
until it opens to that oval face again
the wooden face of someone
carved once from the family tree, but ???
Anyway take the pit for now & toss it—
into the trash with the gnats who don’t care
where it came from… that eat unanimously
& without question like children at summer birthday parties
At parties especially I want to say, listen:
Fancy is not for us The recipe is lime & salt
then Destroy to Taste That’s how I learned it:
mashing it all together clockwise against time
yes aguacate is the proper name yes it is
this delicious yes we’ve always made it this way
Both the children and the dogs here have long, golden hair
float as if in a heaven
constructed in my primary years.
Especially this child here,
half the size of me,
holding open the elevator door,
his father just standing there,
having successfully raised his son
in that crisp bubble of light
called The California of the Mind.
Regina was quiet
and uninterested in me
in school, had hair the color of
tomato juice or blood
diffused with shower water, and I did
worship her queenly remove
until my mother dismissed her, told me
she was made of money, Mexican money,
those freckles among the columns
and the bougainvillea.
Even at seven,
I had this strange aesthetic curiosity:
I wanted what I could never be—
the long bird like the white of my eye,
its quick blink between the Brackenridge oaks.
Later, that got me
in trouble: my first love was a white man
with eyes like dark grapes gone bad.
I didn’t want his skin.
But I liked
how he looked for me
from far across the classroom
like a father searching for a lost article
of clothing or like a man
who hasn’t ever felt much like a father before.
My Mother & the Parable of the Lemons
Men do nothing for me. I forget
they’re even there.
But I can’t forget the tree
that half-died every summer,
the lemons like sour eggs
left unhatched by a pile of bricks.
That was the lesson:
Apá with his women in Mexico,
Amá with her chickens here.
She snapped the head right off,
chewed on the neck bone
while he drank his caldo by the bowl.
That’s what marriage is like:
someone is always well-prepared
for the sacrifice, and someone else
is the sacrifice.
When I met your father, it was like that.
He said I could draw a lamp
better than most people,
better than my father never said I could,
and when I did,
all the chickens clucked their way
back to life, all the lemons
levitated to their original leaves.
But when you were born, the rind
broke—I chose you
over him. It was easy.
If you do marry, marry well
or marry never.
a mother will always love you,
but a man can draw you in.
My Father & Dalí Do Not Agree
1981. June or August—the dry musk
of Laredo after a rain. In his parent’s backyard,
my father slices a leaf of maguey, sketches it
with a Dutch attention to detail
no one in town has seen.
Enter Dalí. At first, he does not see
my father because Dalí is Dalí,
waltzing in from 1963 with his ocelot
to whom he speaks only French. Then
he does see: a sliver of a man
on a cement step, a gelatin print at dusk.
So he says, “Young man! Tonight, the moon! And above
the moon is an exquisite nude who is my mother
and my lover and my queen!”
“Leave,” says my father. “I am working.”
This is when Dalí turns into a fire ant
crawling from a brick hole to pinch my father awake.
Now it’s 1992. The evening is harmless.
The smell of lard and corn is in the air.
I am five years old in the front yard
with the bougainvillea. My father
never remembers me, but I can see him
in the sky, in the negative space
between the brightly colored tissue.
Have I ever told you I am my mother’s daughter?
I am not afraid to go back in time,
to have the moon reflected in my big, brown eyes
as the terracotta roof arcs its terracotta arches.
Picnic Pastoral (with Dark-Skinned Father)
In the dream, his new triplets
are floral and abundant.
In his arms, their blonde curls—
sun-flecked hay in the style of Pissarro
which would mean
that he is their laborer, carrying them
through the fields, his skin
a furrow in the flax
where they grow: their bulbous white heads
sprouting soft and tender.
I see him as an inflorescence,
the darkly seeded hub of several petals,
and I am the one that fell off,
that would not wither. It’s not
harvest here. That’s why he’s on time.
That’s why he unloads the triplets
like sacks of threshed wheat
right on my blanket as I flail for something
to say, but he leans against a tree
like he has a headache, like his work
is never done, like it aches to say it:
I’ve been looking all over for you.
My Father Lost in a Game of Chess
I am facing a geometric board. I am cut and uncooked clay. The pawns announce me. I slope after them. The King is silent. Gott is silent. My father speaks in the voice of Nietzsche from behind a parapet. Nietzsche: so sensitive to light and sound that he lives in my father’s studio, hands in shea butter gloves, head under a black umbrella. We are not in my father’s studio. We are in a yellow living room. The knight, with his horse teeth, sings me his troubadour song. I question his motives. I insist control. The Queen says, Go, but I need to hear it from the King. Open his mouth. See what’s left: a handful of doves bathed in their own oil and roasted. I eat the doves before he can mount me. I stick the tiny bones in his ears. Where is my father? Give him back to me. He grunts, O Gott, O Gott, O Gott. Reverence is a lost art. I angle him like the bishop.
Trauma with White Agnostic Male
And Holofernes took great delight in her
and drank more wine than he had drunk at any time
in one day since he was born.
– Judith, 12:20
It’s not too late now for me
to drive back to town,
to surprise you.
Meet me there: the King William District, Fiesta.
I’ll wear strawberry ribbons
in my unkempt hair.
You’ll mock a trio of mariachis,
a cer-vay-sa in your spidery hand.
That’s how you’ll say it: Sir Vésa
for love of my tender, Latina outrage.
You loved it when I was 16
and you would love it now, my lips
a big red flower trembling
in the style of David Bowie
while you whisper Christ cookies, Christ cookies
in my indelicate ear.
This is blood
for blood, a prodigal heartbreak
I must return:
Artemisia is in one corner with her nursemaid,
my mother is in the other with a crushed velvet sack.
In a long black skirt,
I’ll mention the jamaicas of my childhood,
my signature side ponytail, and how I,
brave on carbonated sugar and grilled meat,
always made it my mission to find my favorite teacher
amongst the booths, but which one?
And who am I?
The golden one.
Dear San Antonio native,
this is your little calf, talking.
Now I can stand here with your head
in my hands or I can cut you off completely.
Either way: God forbid
you live forever.
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November 14, 2016
8 Min read time