Gary Soto


Late Confession

Monsignor, I believed Jesus followed me
With his eyes, and when I slept,
An angel peeled an orange
And waited for me to wake up.
This was 1962. I was ten, small as the flame
Of a struck match, my lungs fiery
From hard, wintery play. When I returned home,
Legs hurting, I placed my hands on the windowsill
And looked out — clouds dirty as towels
And geese I have yet to see again
Darkening the western sky.

Teaching English from an Old Composition Book

My chalk is no longer than a chip of fingernail,
Chip by which I must explain this Monday
Night the verbs “to get;” “to wear,” “to cut.”
I’ m not given much, these tired students,
Knuckle-wrapped from work as roofers,
Sour from scrubbing toilets and pedestal sinks.
I’ m given this room with five windows,
A coffee machine, a piano with busted strings,
The music of how we feel as the sun falls,
Exhausted from keeping up.
I stand at

The Drought

The clouds shouldered a path up the mountains
East of Ocampo, and then descended,
Scraping their bellies gray on the cracked shingles of slate.

They entered the valley, and passed the roads that went
Trackless, the houses blown open, their cellars creaking
And lined with the bottles that held their breath for years.

They passed the fields where the trees dried thin as hat racks
And the plow’ s tooth bit the earth for what endured.
But what continued were the wind that plucked the birds spineless