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.

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.

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.

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.

On Politics – Poems by Sergio Ortiz

Where will the children play
Their names, carved in the keel
of the vessel in which they traveled.

Their margins, our boundaries pushed
to the side in view of what really matters

in our fallible, sensitive lives, seek
a response from the unknown.

Position yourselves next to the mystery
of their music. Is child play the glimmer

that does not bond to anything,
a mirror of water: the closed curtain

in the school of human affections?
Gunshot signals the rescue,

yet you deny them entry.
A growing weakness reminds me

that there is no beginning or end in the life
of your phosphoric limbo, Mr. President.

Nobility of Blood
Dear Lord, this congressional recess
the President’s cabinet promises
to thank you for AIDS, though
it has not made them transcend
into the 21st century. They are
still caught up in superficial things
like fake news, taxes, bans, the wall.

We thank you for these tent evangelists,
brothers and sisters alike,
breeders of hate crimes,
that reject the perfect beauty
of homemade remedies
and blood transfusions.

Lord, forgive their arrogance
toward the medical community
and appoint faith healers
to Obama Care, or whatever the hell
Mr. Trump decides to call it.

Thank you for allowing me to live
on the periphery of society,
where nobody asks yet everybody
tells. Thank you for the innocent
illusion of my open exhibitions
of affection toward Omar. Thank you

for not letting in immigrants
from Muslim Africa, where water, food,
and medical supplies have always
been scarce and costly, where rape
and violence towards women
is beyond control, where children
have no choice but to fight
for brutal warlords, where life
and death no longer belongs to You.

Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Libya, Sudan,
have you learned to die?


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.

Poetry Double Feature

Spurt

Mom nags, “Don’t swallow that or it’ll grow into a tree.”

Black watermelon flecks splinter. Cherry pits wither.

Tiny kiwi dots get lost. Kumquat gives up the ghost.

I gag on a peach stone. But a tight-housed seed

pared from a fruit Jessie stole from an abandoned lot looks

like pay dirt. Jessie knows how much I wanna be the
climate to grow a little shoot that shoots like his. I choke
it down with a chlorine gulp from the hose. Stretch open
my mouth to the sun. After three days, not even a
tickle. Jessie investigates with flashlight and tongue de-
pressor. See a sprig climbing past my tonsil-trellis, upside down through the wrong mouth? I try to stop making spit in case the sprig’s drowning.
Jessie insists intestines are dirtier than my tummy,
so he lifts my skirt with his magnifying glass. Sand?
Loam? Clay? Enough nitrogen? Jessie wiggles his green
thumb to investigate. With a gentleness I don’t expect,
he tamps the dirt around a hole dug long ago and licks
soil to taste vitamins. The seedling might be thirsty, yes?
I hesitate at the watering can spout. Should I find out this
way, at eight,
whether I
am fallow
ground
or fertile?


Pecker

Scotia, 1901. We swap a two-man saw
for a lift to the clinic.
Doctor boils water, administers laudanum.
(We dream of felling timber with an axe
the old fashioned way.)
A spill squalls us awake.
Sex
is the first diagnosis.
Doctor disappears with the specimen
and returns to show us F
marked on the certificate
next to Laurel, familiar as graded lumber.
We swaddle her in Eliza’s skirt,
bandaging a pale whorl that fists shut.
A strange scar.

Sweet spots hum in a hollow trunk
found by father
working himself to a lather.
“Timber!” echoes at odd hours.
At a safe distance, Laurel takes knife to scrap,
carving peckers from filch-sawn fir,
wings uneven, beak stunted.

Woodpeckers at lesser bark
tap to draw lice and larvae.
They telegraph each other, too:
long misspelled missives
that illiterate trees can’t read
drum across the forest.

Laurel doesn’t suspect peckers’ variety of tongue protuberances:
curled between skull and skin,
barbed for hooking insects,
brush to suck sap,
spear-like tip,
bristles.


Julian Mithra queers desire through performance poetry, collage zines, found footage video, and cut up books. Their work fragments the erotic drive to manifest and the destructive drive to expurgate. When they emote, people listen; then get uncomfortable. In California, they’ve formally studied material culture, folklore, narrative, and the avant garde. Informal studies range from leatherwork to Dada. Their work appears or will appear in The Golden Key, Thank You For Swallowing, PoetryFilmKanal, Whirlwind Magazine, Pilcrow&Dagger, and Milvia Street. Find unsettling audio tracks on Soundcloud.com/sara-anika-mithra and watch soft focus poem videos on vimeo.com/saramithra.

Clown Suite

If I had learned to paint existence,

if I would have had a Bertold Brecht in my drawer,

(Man is born in the Bertold Brecht of his shirt.

Children’s eyes and anxiety knock on his door)

this gulp of Japanese rum would have been

just like a son of a bitch rose.

 

But this country of drunkenness is insatiable,

Pedrito, almost like a back-lit photograph.

This small country promised us transience,

gave us many blank pages and some scribbles.

It also peed in our socks.

 

That’s why I love clowns.

For their contribution to the theory of horror,

for their wide and happy shoes,

and for the Bertold Brecht that redeems the usury

of dwelling in this rough alphabet.


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 Journals and Anthologies. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.