Last time I saw myself die is when police killed Jessie Hernandez
A 17 year old brown queer // who was sleeping in their car
Yesterday I saw myself die again // Fifty times I died in Orlando // &
I remember reading // Dr. José Esteban Muñoz before he passed
I was studying at NYU // where he was teaching // where he wrote shit
That made me feel like a queer brown survival was possible // But he didn’t
Survive & now // on the dancefloor // in the restroom // on the news // in my chest
There are another fifty bodies that look like mine // & are
Dead // & I’ve been marching for Black Lives & talking about police brutality
Against Native communities too // for years now // but this morning
I feel it // I really feel it again // How can we imagine ourselves // We being black native
Today // Brown people // How can we imagine ourselves
When All the Dead Boys Look Like Us? // Once I asked my nephew where he wanted
To go to College // What career he would like // as if
The whole world was his for the choosing // Once he answered me without fearing
Tombstones or cages or the hands from a father // The hands of my lover
Yesterday praised my whole body // Made angels from my lips // Ave Maria
Full of Grace // He propped me up like the roof of a cathedral // in NYC
Before we opened the news & read // & read about people who think two brown queers
Can’t build cathedrals // only cemeteries // & each time we kiss
A funeral plot opens // In the bedroom I accept his kiss // & I lose my reflection
I’m tired of writing this poem // but I want to say one last word about
Yesterday // my father called // I heard him cry for only the second time in my life
He sounded like he loved me // it’s something I’m rarely able to hear
& I hope // if anything // his sound is what my body remembers first.;
Christopher Soto, All the Dead Boys Look Like Me, Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, 2017
Born in 1991 to El Salvadoran parents who immigrated to the United States, Christopher Soto is a poet and prison abolitionist who spent the formative years of life in Los Angeles. Soto studied at New York University as a Goldwater Hospital Writing Fellow and, in 2015, earned a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry .Soto has worked with the Lambda Literary Foundation since 2014 as editor of the online literary journal “Nepantia”.
Christopher Soto’s first chapbook collection of poems was the 2012 “How to Eat Glass”. Soto’s second collection, the chapbook “Sad Girl Poems” was published in January of 2016. This collection of narrative poems dealt with the social issues affecting young queer people of color, among which are homelessness, gender identity, abuse in the family, and death of a lover. In 2016, Soto co-founded, along with Macelo Castillo and Javier Zamora, the Undocupoets Campaign which successfully removed the citizenship requirement from first-book competitions, thus allowing undocumented poets and writers to participate. For this, the organization and Soto received the Barnes & Noble Writer for Writers Award.
After receiving an invitation from The Center for Justice at New York’s Columbia University, Soto taught a community-based writing workshop in 2017 at the university as part of the June Jordan Teaching Corp, named in honor of the queer black poet and essayist. In 2018, Soto edited and published through Nightboat Books the anthology “Nepantia: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color”. This publication was the first major literary anthology of queer poets of color in the United States.
Relocating back to Los Angeles in 2019, Christopher Soto began working with the University of California’s Ethnic Studies Research Center. Soto became a member of the Boardof Directors for Lambda Literary and joined the CantoMundo Fellowship which supports Latino poets and poetry. Working alongside Javier Zamora, Jan Henry Gray and Anni Liu, Soto co-organized the “Writers for Migrant Justice” campaign, a national movement in over forty cities to raise the necessary funds to aid migrant families in detention.
As a lecturer in 2020 with the University of California’s Honors College, Soto began teaching inter disciplinary creative writing courses, such as “Poetry and Protest Movements”. Awarded in 2021 a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, Soto became a visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Los Angeles’s Occidental College, where he still teaches.
In May of 2022, Copper Canyon Press will be releasing Soto’s new collection of poetry, “Diaries of a Terrorist”. This collection of political surrealist poems, which discusses the issues of power and police violence, is expressed through alternating humor, deep vulnerability, and frank queer punk bawdiness.
Christopher Soto’s poetry, reviews, interviews and articles can be found in many literary publications, including Poetry magazine, Tin House, American Poetry Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Guardian, among others. Soto’s workis available in many translations including Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai.