Behind the Poems: Tocarla

guitarist holding an acousitc guitar

“Tocarla” is the next one in my series “Behind the Poems.” See other posts in the series here.

This poem first appeared in Lady Lit Magazine, an online journal that is now deactivated.

screenshot of a poem in the shape of a guitar

I remember how excited and nervous I was when I first wrote this poem and submitted it for publication. It was my first attempt at what I like to call a “spicy” poem. Something about it felt forbidden, which made it all the more enticing.

Coming from a bilingual background, I wanted to make a double entendre. Tocar translates to “to touch” in Spanish, but it’s also a verb used to refer to playing an instrument. So, to say, “To play the guitar,” you’d say, “Tocar la guitarra.”

I haven’t played guitar in a few years, but I used to practice periodically throughout college. I noticed one day the perfect way the curve of the instrument fit my lap. Leaning against its smooth wood, one hand moved up and down strumming the strings and the other glided up and down the neck from fret to fret. It’s a feeling of connection like the instrument became an extension of me.

This experience spoke to me about how sensuous the act of playing an instrument can actually be, which then inspired the idea to create a parallel scene. My poem depicts a lover holding a woman in his lap and touching her to “make her sing” the way a guitarist plays the instrument to make music.

I shaped the words on the page to emulate the curve of a guitar, which could also be seen as the curve of a woman lying on her side. I remember feeling particularly clever when I laid out the poem this way. Perhaps it’s not so genius, but at the time, writing about such a forbidden subject and creating a visual with the words on the page felt empowering to me.

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