On Loss – Poems by Sergio Ortiz

I Refuse to Lose You
I follow you to the street
where best regards
forms a corner wall
with the breeze.

Where my body fights
to enter the overflow of mist
in your cloisters.

Where clouds move inside a space
beyond grief or understanding,
and memory, my scandalous mirror,
always tells a lie.

Filled with longing
I came to you prepared for ghosts
and found whispers.

 

The Pianist
We buried him yesterday.
Night finds little if any consolation
in embellished stars,
and although I have stopped crying,
I still sigh.

I listen to music
when there is nothing
but the luscious scent
of emptiness.

You were my fallen flower,
my one thousand gifts
of heavenly abundance,
my banquet of endings.


Sergio A. Ortiz is a queer Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

I Paint You in Bubbles

Together in the bath, I paint you in bubbles. I craft bubble biceps, bubble forearms, bubble shoulders. I build bubble pecs, careful of not to touch your breasts. I ruffle on a soapy beard, but you look like Santa, it’s too full, too fake. With a capped razor, I shave your baby cheeks, scrape and shape a face I think is manly. You smile and your mustache smudges.

When I reach for the cloud between your legs, you flinch, but you don’t stop me. We work together to shape genitals. You cup together balls of suds while I stroke a bubble patch into a shaft, round it, add girth. I trim the length and you add on a bit extra. I circumcise you.

Complete, you shimmer, like an illusion of handsomeness. We sit silent, the steady fizz of evaporating bubbles between us. I look away and pick at the ingrown hairs on my legs until the water turns cold.

When I turn back it’s your familiar body again, shiny smears like scars where the bubbles had been. I meet your eyes and I see him, determined, torn.

A final island of bubbles, the deflated remains of your penis, floats between us. I take a part of it and craft a plaster over the tiny puncture mark on your thigh, the first wound. I swear I can feel the throb of testosterone beneath my fingers. You take the last of the bubbles and, in gentle strokes, place a plaster over my racing heart.


Megan Crosbie is a queer writer and occasional performer from Edinburgh, who often writes in the boundary between flash-fiction and poetry. Her writing has been published in journals such as Firewords Quarterly, Northwords Now and Litro. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, drag shows, and too many vegan donuts. You can support Megan’s work here: https://www.mcrosbie.com/

Orbits

I.

In your own chaos

you reached out

recognizing

the imminence

of mine.

 

Your unexpected touch

turned my gaze.

Eyes locked

we previewed

the bitter darkness to come

–the night in which

your lamplike eyes

would be my only lantern.

 

Together,

you said.

 

II.

Night did come

(your premonitory accuracy

still astounds me).

Hand on my heart

the second time.

 

Together,

you reminded.

 

III.

Your warmth still

tethers me

to sanity–

even on days

when I teeter,

even

when the precipice calls

and I flirt

with answering.

 

IV.

Still one act away

I hesitate

in the shadows of creativity,

my longing

preparing me for another night.

Will I greet her

with your eyes

to guide me?

Or

will your lanterns be

swallowed

by a sea of darkness

in Act V?

 


Malo is a queer artist who oscillates between the fear of being discovered and being forgotten.

Out of Water

I am a clownfish. I told Aggie this when we met and again after our mothers set us up and she tried to put me in a hot air balloon on an otherwise bland double date.

She didn’t do her research.

“Those them cute ones in the tank at the Chinese restaurant?” she’d said, mimicking some southern belle and winking.

Today, August 21, 1963, she thinks she’s done better with a canoe trip and picnic along Lake Huron. Only we’re in Ontario and she’s packed “fresh” lobster. I wonder how long she’s had it in the basket.

I wish I could have breasts like hers, I think, standing on the beach with my hands shoved deep in my corduroys while she putters around in a yellow bikini and whisks out a table cloth. We need the music from Bewitched. I’d like to try twirling a parasol right now, anything but those fishing poles and the heavy paddles. Man, I’d do anything to get my hands on a perky cross-your-heart bra. For myself.

She lays the pieces of coral crustacean out like surgical tools. I play with a tail and she’s already licking her fingers, gabbing about her friends’ engagements and her progress with tennis and angel food cakes. The sand and everything is too white.

“The girls, you know, they all think you’re a little on the feminine side, can you believe it? But me, I just say, well ladies I like a clean and tidy man. I mean I’m clean and tidy. You must like that about me.”

Under her Rita Hayworth coiffed bangs, she stares over at me before tossing her head to the side, laughing. I feel sick, catching a faint whiff of ammonia from the lobster mixed with the wet algae smell.

The sun is blistering my shoulders and there’s sand in between my molars but I can’t go anywhere because my mother’s already asking too many questions and looking too worried when she catches me with her Chatelaine. It’s just her and I, now that Dad hightailed it to Florida for another woman—the fishing capital of the world, don’t you know it—and she said she wants a new, normal life carved out of the ripples he left. I don’t know how normal can manifest in something like moving water.

Aggie doesn’t seem to mind my inaction when it comes romance. Or conversation. And I know I’m going to have to keep it up and marry this girl who fed lobster to a clownfish and thinks something like blue and pink come from separate oceans.

Maybe one day I can explain about the clownfish.


Renée Francoeur is a 28 year-old Canadian journalist. By day she writes for contractors and by night she blogs, paints nudes and writes poetry.

She won third prize for the 2016 Women Inspirational Poetry Contest. She’s also written for Standard Criteria and Squawk Back and been published in Three Line Poetry and Poetry Quarterly. She is currently working on a chapbook about the intersection of broken heartedness, rebirth and geography.

She loves coconut coffee porter, wild buffalo, striving to bring gender and minority issues to the forefront, old tombstones, baking strange recipes (kale cake anyone?) and sustainable, GMO-free agricultural endeavours.

On Love and Longing – Poems by Sergio Ortiz

Eros and his Hidden Lover
Trapped in my surroundings,
my place of birth, a ray of moonlight
unfolded, revealing the fragrant lavender petals
of a desert flower. I moved closer,
desperate to express my longing,
and calm the madness
in Eros’s eyes.

I found my way to his tent
where voices of distant seas inhabit me,
where fear blinks as I learn to die
from the multiple definitions of East and West,
empty like the cracks in dry desert earth.

A needle stitched my tears.
Two thousand years in the thorny hands
of gods, a bitter pleasure.

Two worlds, two discernments.
Lost in the distracted indiscretion
of time. Stunned
and twisted.

We should rehearse
for the day when we go blind.
We should all learn to read with our fingers
the braille of scars on arms and sperm
of melted candles. Remove for one night,
every fortnight, the white bulb in our bedroom.

Because before death
comes blindness. And Charon will not accept
fear as payment to cross the river.

For a winged birth
steel must cut the meat
and throw away the body.
It is not the sky that grants us flight.
It is the fall.

Think nothing of it
if at the shrine of your life I am cured
of madness, for I taste silence
in the book of words.

Talk to me, soothe my capricious pulse
with the fluttering chants of hummingbirds.
I wrestle blasphemous shadows tonight.

Boots lie under my pillow,
memories of you in love with orchids.
This heartache does not want to be tamed.
There is sorrow on my face, and I have lost
my way out of the woods on the very night
swallows vanished amid strangers.


Sergio A. Ortiz is a queer Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

The Strange Comfort

I can’t stop gaping at my sent messages. The number seems to rise without a reply every day these days. I look back at some of the older messages wondering when I made that first introduction. I spot some messages dating back a few weeks ago and even more still a few months ago. I look at my dating inbox to see if I missed any replies. I never have. I don’t think that I will, either.

I go hunting for new dates anyway because I hope that I will spot someone who I have not assaulted with my genuine nature. The browse page fills up with so many familiar profiles; I feel like an expert on every one of them. I know that Tommy corrected a spelling mistake on his page a few days ago. One that he had up there for years. I know that George updated his favorite books after I suggested a few to him because one of my suggestions appears there. Still, I hunt for someone new.

Maybe it’s because I am desperately hunting that I don’t hear the beep. It’s an earcon that tells people that they have a new message. When I look at my inbox, though, again…there’s an unread message. It’s from a guy I messaged months ago.

“Hi!” it reads, perhaps with a sigh, perhaps not. “I’m Jamie. I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you, but I was debating if we were going to be a good fit, even.”

I value his honesty more than anything, and I begin to compose a novel about how I don’t know what I am even looking for anymore because people are afraid of genuine behavior. So, if he didn’t want to date me, go out with me, or even talk to me, that I’d appreciated it if he just blocked me and moved on because all I want at this very moment is a hug and for someone to tell me I am special, even if it’s not true.

His reply comes back quick as a flash. He says he values my honesty. He says he doesn’t get a lot of replies because of his height; he is six foot six and his skin. Apparently, he’s black. I guess I will just have to take him at face value.

We continue to send novels to each other. I tell him about the dance party I attended where I swung my hips with such vigor that a hurricane manifested in downtown Chicago. He explains he missed the disaster because Netflix kept his attention that night. He was watching House of Cards. We reveal how lonely we are and how we have nothing in common with one another. He hates intellectual conversation and loves small talk, and I don’t understand his love of bugs and ants. He doesn’t like my voice, and I don’t like his. Still, we pour our hearts out to each other on the phone and through email.

Neither of us knows why.

Soon after a heated exchange over the phone, one afternoon, I ask him if he can come over and we could argue in person about something. To some people, this seems wildly bizarre, but I have always been a blue traffic light in a world of green and red traffic lights. Nothing is normal to me anymore. When he says that he will visit me in my apartment, I am elated, not terrified that a man who towers over me is going to be in my apartment all alone. My blue traffic signal can’t stop pulsating with anticipation.

He arrives at nine that night and bends over to hug me. Even though I can’t see him or what he looks like online, I picture him as a Denzel Washington clone. His height doesn’t quite fit my mental image, but I figure adding a pink traffic signal to my arsenal won’t hurt the economy any more than normal people will.

When he sits on my bed, the mattress sinks a little. Even when I sit on his lap, I still must look up at his voice to face him.

We start off by talking about our dating accounts. As we talk, we realize that we may not like each other in the slightest, but we are both in the same boat. We are lonely outcasts in our own gaggle of brothers who want a lot of things like; for example, love, marriage rights, and someone who’s true to who they are. I wish  they knew how to say all they want is someone who you can have sex with and never look back. As we talk, we become even more heartbroken and emotional and worried.

His arms shake as his voice trembles with the desperate cry for answers that I am sure we all asked ourselves at some point, “Is there someone out there for me?”

“I have no freaking idea,” I say and hug him back. We hold each other, and we wish the world was better about being honest. We argue about what honesty is. We argue about other gay men. Even though we are not getting along, we need each other, just for tonight. I take his face in my hands and gaze up at his heavy breathing. We continue to hold each other until, finally, his annoying voice and loving embrace steps towards my apartment door. Before he leaves, though, I grab his arm to say a final goodbye. Something weird blurts out of my mouth instead.

“We just can’t give up,” I say. I tell him that there’s someone out there for everybody, even weirdoes like us.

“I hope you’re right.” He says.

“I hope so too,” I answer. I don’t know how loudly our weirdly colored hearts are beating at this moment, but I’d like to hope that someone, somewhere, notices they exist.


Robert Kingett is a bestselling author and award winning journalist who just can’t stop pouring his personal life onto a screen. While most admired for his personal essays, human stories, boldly told, and short memoirs, he also covers various beats, such as satire, politics, crime, travel, food and drink, and entertainment. He is a dating advice columnist and actively campaigns to make the world a better place for disabled people as well as other minority voices. His website is www.blindjournalist.wordpress.com

Ten Years After the Big Game

Last night, I wore a miniskirt
to the reunion
instead of my helmet.

The teams were the same:
girls with Venus legs flytrap shut;
boys chasing tail
so no one thinks they like ass.
But I had switched sides.

Coach saw my nicked-up knees
and lead the offensive.
But you can’t unring the bell,
or unscrew the girl,
so I beat him to the punch
and gulped a big glass of fuck you:
my square jaw set;
my Adam’s apple bobbing
like a minor toady.
It was a bravura performance:
not a side-eye in the house.

Ten years after the big game, they all know
I can’t pass like I used to.
But I can strut.


KKat is an IT consultant in a Deeply Red state. He is genderqueer, poly, and part of the local kink scene that always hides in plain sight in every outwardly conservative city. He lived awhile as a woman, although later events indicate she is probably more the result of severe childhood trauma than a true “second self.” His poetry is an attempt to come to terms with all this: why it always comes out as wink-wink and full of sly sexual puns is a mystery yet unsolved.