Mike Soto: Two Poems

Hourglass with Bat Wings


With boots we’ve given to landmark
the sky, tossed up, caught
by the wire as a handcuffed pair

of notes, as bats that would sing
upside down had we not cut out
their tongues to make cradles


for slingshots. Under the barking
of the brightest star, we perfected
ourselves from looking back,

left love like cards of the highest
hand face down on the table,
& set out—with ambitions to fail

as many times as necessary, find
ourselves barefoot on the other side
of the bribes yellowing the grass


of our youth. Aspirations to be the ones
staggering into the porch-light
of a stranger who would give us

three months work timbering pine.
We paid a cyber café attendant
with no face, a pool-hustler, a pastel blue

prostitute, finally found the coyote who
led us to the tunnel that connects
a payphone in a field of maize to

a parking lot surrounded by desert
in every direction. By walking
three days under the clean stare


of a sun we took to be shining
upside down, by finding mirrors
of water we could never drink.

By selling the best years of our lives
to Death who turned them into a pair
of songs on the jukebox, we got


the desperate money we needed, paid
the best lookout along the wall—
a twelve-year-old with the hair

of a caterpillar—who knew when shifts
ended, which guards liked to nap.


The Useful Rituals

Before in our sleep we’ve joined hands
over lips & called a distant warmth
to come halo our feet when the sheets

have been thrown from our bodies,
summoned that sensation to rise from
our toes to hover above our heads

like a hummingbird. And when we
wake up our hair is perfectly combed
& parted, steaming as if our dreams

had us working in the cold. And because
we’ve slept the entire day in order
to be awake the entire night,

we enter the cemetery with the sun
gone down, gather our first thoughts
with a cup of black as the first wreaths

arrive. Two men each carry the golden
weight of flowers caked so densely
to the door-like frames. And since

there’s always some pendejo trying
to do it all by himself, we lend our
shoulders & learn two versions

of the cross sit on top of each other
because the useful rituals survive,
learn moths flicker above the graves

because the men decorating the entrance
with marigolds have decided for the third
time the arch needs more. When it’s night

enough the ether that dances above
the flames can be seen. Some may never
notice, or it might come to them all at once,

when enough families trickle in, start dressing
the tombs of loved ones—the labyrinth
everyone must walk to avoid stepping on

the graves of others. A mother hands a spade
to her daughter, straightens the picture
of her husband after kissing it several times.

There is a feeling to take away when the cemetery
is lit up like this, hands shaking like cities
in our pockets because it’s gotten cold—remember

completely enough, notice the seeds already
held in your fists, the ones that will lift our lives
above the ground just the inch we need.

Mike Soto
is a first generation Mexican-American, raised in East Dallas and in a small town in Michoacán. His current manuscript uses themes from the current drug war taking place along a fictional U.S./Mexico bordertown. The manuscript can be described as a Narco Acid Western told in about forty five poems. It is written in lineage with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film, El Topo.

Photo by Melanie Magdalena