2018 Poetry

Mike Soto


In the beginning there was murder, & out
of murder shadows & barking ran up
to read ciphers on walls, cold-blooded

creatures plotted their revenge behind
smoke. Under pointy brims names
crossed out from grocery lists, fates

determined by the jeweled hands
of a father who landed his first born
into a pair of alligator boots

by the age of five. Birds reassembled
on the first lines between poles after
shots were fired into a Mercury Topaz.

In that silence that’s always been the silence
most alive. Mindless bodies, armless minds,
tattooed Marys over scarred wrists,

R.I.P. murals for miles. A shopping cart
full of prayer candles for students not
killed, but handed over, not disappeared,

but missing still. Gossip tangled up with
truth from the start. Turf wars over which
version of time would survive, mothers

bleeding from blown out windows,
sons deaf now for life. Revenge invented
because justice was not. The first day

a table filled with half-empty cups,
set up to be snatched by streets
of desperate runners even then.

Mike Soto’s poetry has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Gulf Coast, PANK, Fugue, Hot Metal Bridge, Michigan Quarterly Review, and others. “Fue El Estado” takes its title from the rallying cry after 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college in Guerrero, Mexico were forcibly disappeared. Evidence points to federal and local officials, military personnel, police and bus drivers, all being complicit in handing over the students to their killers, who then burned their bodies and threw the remains into a river. The phrase translates, “It Was The State.”


February 2012 Poetry

Mike Soto


What I remember—getting tapped
on the shoulder, eyes like invitations
to edge the lake, her nakedness
like a moon to my fingertips,

on my tongue, a glowing I could taste. Doors
that opened to the pennies of a field,
getting chased by lightning,

waking with blackened fingernails.
From the footstep my body burned
into grass, I rose & remembered,

being told this is what you deserve,
a kiss that spiraled down a stairwell,
dripping in the dark.

That’s why Winter
never found me, why I keep a moth
in my wallet, & listen to branches
raking knots out of the wind’s hair.


A dead man desperate for a chance at life
finds the Devil’s grasp. On the graveled shoulder
of two roads that arrive into each other, their shoes

dig into a stalemate—they meet & discuss
nothing, but with paused language,
their eyes speak, bargain.

The wooden egg of an instrument case
gets stamped & sent out of the Devil’s office.
They unseal hands. Only the opposite

direction of their footsteps makes sound or sense.
The instrument takes a train to find itself
under the Mulberry where the man frets,

hearing its dome of leaves rattle
to the seeping wind. For days he steps in
& past the shade, one hand roofed

over his eyes. The other, looking out,
already playing the strings.
With a mind lit red like a moon and still

turning, he begins to see muted lights, wavering
horizons− a city so distant, he half-jokes,
it must be under water.


Mike Soto grew up in Dallas overhearing trains on the Santa Fe Railroad, and in a small town in Mexico, overhearing swallows. His chapbook, Beyond The Shadow’s Ink, was published by Jeanne Duval Editions and is available through his website: