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Analicia Sotelo reads her poem "Do You Speak Virgin?"

Brought to you by Complexly, The Poetry Foundation, and poet Paige Lewis. Learn more:

Analicia Sotelo:

Do You Speak Virgin by Analicia Sotelo
From Virgin by Analicia Sotelo (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by
Analicia Sotelo. Used with permission from Milkweed Editions.

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My name is Analicia Sotelo and I'll be reading from "Do You Speak Virgin".

I wanted to write this poem because I didn't see many poems about virginity and about late virginity in one's life and I felt that culturally we were missing that narrative and I wanted to take this poem away from the dichotomy of virgin or whore and unveil what it can really be like to have that experience.

Do You Speak Virgin?

This wedding is some hell:

a bouquet of cacti wilting in my hand
while my closest friends

sit on a bar bench,
stir the sickles in their drinks, smile up at me.

The moon points out my neckline
like a chaperone.

My veil is fried tongue and chicken wire,
hanging off to one side.

I am a Mexican American fascinator.

Let me cluck my way to an empty field

where my husband stays silent
& the stars are the arachnid eyes

of my mother-in-law: duplicitous, 
ever-present in the dark.

I'm not afraid of sex.  

I'm afraid of his skeleton
knocking against the headboard

in the middle of the night.

I'm afraid I am a blind goat
with a ribbon in my hair, with screws for eyes.

I'm afraid wherever I walk, it's purgatory.

I meet a great lake with rust-colored steam 
rising, someone somewhere

has committed murder, hides
in the bushes with an antique mirror.

The virgins are here to prove a point.
The virgins are here to tell you to fuck off.

The virgins are certain there's a circle of hell
dedicated to that fear you'll never find anyone else.

You know what it looks like:

all the lovers--cloaked in blood & salt
& never satisfied,

a priest collar like a giant tooth
in the midnight sky.

I want to know what's coming in the afterlife

before I sign off on arguments
in the kitchen & the sight of him

fleeing to the car

once he sees how far & wide,
how dark & deep

this frigid female mind can go.