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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 5, 2018.
About this Poem 

“In this poem, I wanted to experiment with writing a speaker who didn’t need to be seen as perfect, someone who could sustain a brutally honest admittance about the ways in which they’ve existed outside of physical relationships and still craved them. I was interested, too, in loneliness and the complicated desire for shelter in love alongside the challenge of intimacy in a society where masculinity has claimed space. Here the speaker is naming their instinct—that there is something right and not right about relationships. There are risks and comforts to that theater of intimacy. We don’t always know ourselves until we see ourselves with another person, and this poem is a reflection of that discovery.”
—Analicia Sotelo

Bitch Instinct

Before this day I loved
like an animal loves a human,
 
with no way to articulate
how my bones felt in bed
 
or how a telephone felt so strange
in my paw. O papa—
 
I called out to no one—
but no one understood. I didn’t
 
even. I wanted to be caught. Like
let me walk beside you on my favorite leash,
 
let my hair grow long and wild
so you can comb it in the off-hours,
 
be tender to me. Also let me eat
the meals you do not finish 	
 
so I can acclimate, climb into
the way you claim this world.
 
Once, I followed married men:
eager for shelter, my fur
 
curled, my lust
freshly showered.
 
I called out, Grief.
They heard, Beauty.                      	
 
I called out, Why?
They said, Because I can and will.
 
One smile could sustain me for a week.
I was that hungry. Lithe and giddy,        	
 
my skin carried the ether of a so-so
self-esteem. I felt fine. I was
 
fine, but I was also looking
for scraps; I wanted them all to pet me.
 
You think because I am a woman,
I cannot call myself a dog?
 
Look at my sweet canine mind,
my long, black tongue. I know
 
what I’m doing. When you’re with
the wrong person, you start barking.
 
But with you, I am looking out
this car window with a heightened sense
 
I’ve always owned. Oh every animal
knows when something is wrong.
 
Of this sweet, tender feeling, I was wrong,
and I was right, and I was wrong.

Copyright © 2018 by Analicia Sotelo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Analicia Sotelo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Analicia Sotelo

Analicia Sotelo

Analicia Sotelo is the author of Virgin (Milkweed Editions, 2018), which won the Jake Adam York Prize, and Nonstop Godhead (Poetry Society of America, 2016).

by this poet

poem
We must set this story straight.
We must say there is another angle

to this foreign particle

lodged in my ribs like a small ivory
tiger or a Chinese lamp, the oil

coating my bones. Theseus,
you know you didn't break me.

I was the one who came to you
with a magnifying glass,

needing my Oxford credits

for the