The Tale of Sunlight

By Gary Soto b. 1952 Gary Soto
Listen, nephew.
When I opened the cantina
At noon
A triangle of sunlight
Was stretched out
On the floor
Like a rug
Like a tired cat.
It flared in
From the window
Through a small hole
Shaped like a yawn.
Strange I thought
And placed my hand
Before the opening,
But the sunlight
Did not vanish.
I pulled back
The shutters
And the room glowed,
But this pyramid
Of whiteness
Was simply brighter.
The sunlight around it
Appeared soiled
Like the bed sheet
Of a borracho.
Amazed, I locked the door,
Closed the windows.
Workers, in from
The fields, knocked
To be let in,
Children peeked
Through the shutters,
But I remained silent.
I poured a beer,
At a table
Shuffled a pack
Of old cards,
And watched it
Cross the floor,
Hang on the wall
Like a portrait
Like a calendar
Without numbers.
When a fly settled
In the sunlight
And disappeared
In a wreath of smoke,
I tapped it with the broom,
Spat on it.
The broom vanished.
The spit sizzled.
It is the truth, little one.
I stood eye to blank eye
And by misfortune
This finger
This pink stump
Entered the sunlight,
Snapped off
With a dry sneeze,
And fell to the floor
As a gift
To the ants
Who know me
For what I gave.

Gary Soto, “The Tale of Sunlight” from The Tale of Sunlight (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1978). Copyright © 1978 by Gary Soto. Reprinted with the permission of the author,

Source: The Tale of Sunlight (1978)

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Poet Gary Soto b. 1952


Subjects Ghosts & the Supernatural, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Gary  Soto


Gary Soto is known for a body of work that deals with the realities of growing up in Mexican-American communities; in poems, novels, short stories, plays and over a two dozen books for young people, Soto has recreated the world of the barrio, the urban, Spanish-speaking neighborhood where he was raised, bringing the sights, sounds and smells vividly to life within the pages of his books. Soto’s poetry and prose focus on everyday . . .

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SUBJECT Ghosts & the Supernatural, Mythology & Folklore


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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