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A triptych

Issue 124, Spring 2024

View Showing Oranges Being Harvested in the Groves, 1951. Photograph by Charles Barron. Courtesy Library of Congress

Dream State (As Citrus)

The oranges are my country, my country alone.
They taste of the morning hours, of full-grown suns,
of juice-meat, of joy extended.

No one can take this country, my great tree.
If I climb onto its branches, track every ridge of bark,
slip down at sunset smelling of pulp, it is mine.

I hear the worms shuffling beneath the roots.
My country travels well. I feel there must be a center.
The oranges are my country, my country alone.

My country’s thin green skin slides over
my nailbeds like a laugh track of double negatives.
I must enjoy it. I am the only gardener here.

For the oranges are my country, my country alone.
I can them in jars. I perceive the slowest of signals.
My country talks. My country forages.

My country is unusually tall. My country
has opted out of genetic testing. Fearing death
is never recommended in my country, where every form

of planting is revered. I beat the dirt down with a spatula,
breaking the time-laced patterns of my country—
threatening the face of every watch as if I could stop

the tracks in my brain from releasing the monarchs.
As if I could freeze-frame the sun baking down
on these oranges in the garden where I was once made,

where I followed the fractured brick pathway
to the tree where I now watch my country age.
I cannot keep up with it. I can only throw out:

Can they see my country from up here? Through the leaves?
Can they smell it from over there? Through the pesticides?
The oranges are my country alone, my country.


Dream State (As Conception)

If this is the last day, and the last body, and the only,
in this shower, with its oval sound
like the only grotto,
braiding mist, like a waterfall
in a fantasy film where all the desert and jungle birds
are vehicles for messages from spirit lives;
if this ordinary shower is where I conduct
my insecure prayer for a century
I have loved and a century I have
never understood; if this body, gifted by atoms
and dark matter, harbors any form of wings
secretly aging along my spine,
and if there is nothing I can do to reverse time,
not even scrubbing down every known crevice,
not even catching water in my palms
and watching it slip through like rain through a nest;
if the eggs are speckled with unusual patterns,
and if the breast confuses a streetlamp for a full moon,
and if the branches become unintelligible
in the season between winter and fall,
when the wind is like a shower turned to mist setting
braiding the seconds with the thick space of doubt,
then let me be here again for you soon: ghost of beauty,
full-grained, attached to the feeling of feeling
as time conquers itself by leaving a pink horizon
where more bodies throw scent of earth and ocean.


Dream State (As Afterlife)

The blue jay at the base of the tree let out a strange cry as if it had stolen its body.

It was like the sound of someone pushing a soul through their bones.

I believed it would say what was bound to go wrong if I waited long enough.

Its cry broke through the oak, where a life was caught without resolution.

I didn’t know if I knew this life or if this life was in another dimension.

In the same yard, light flooded the grass with pools of good days and kisses.

The one who lived and died here felt forever tied to those two great trees.

Analicia Sotelo

Analicia Sotelo is the author of Virgin—the inaugural winner of the Jake Adam York Prize, selected by Ross Gay for Milkweed Editions (2018)—and the chapbook, Nonstop Godhead, selected by Rigoberto González for Poetry Society of America. Sotelo’s poems have also appeared in the New Yorker, the Nation, and elsewhere.