sergio ortiz


A Certain Kind of Eden

I am the bandit
who runs a brothel
for the lovers of loss
who toss their boots
into the capital of suffering.

I breed sparrows
and sandpipers.
They build altars
beside my bed,
and I awaken
to the smell of his hair
without remembering
his name, or my own.


sorrow’s home

war raged in Vietnam
and peace burst out of flowers …
there’re battle lines
being drawn, nobody’s right
if everybody’s wrong

when I was a child
I knew encyclopedias
and dictionaries
and wire clothes hangers
beating on my skin
I looked the other way
as long as playmates
groped me like a girl
and wanderlust
nurtured me
I sought adventure
in the shady closet
where my stepfather
littered my pride
and pain
my people
floundered in dark clubs
rooms where perfumed
rainbows glistened
Orpheus’s death
when I wrote
of men folding in their tight skins
like apples —
apples swelling inside me —
it was a mask
when I wrote
of a god singing
and dancing
near the window —
it was a mask
there are no apples
filling my hunger,
no god folding
in his skin,
there is only the memory
of my self
torn at birth
by my own music

Tanka # 101

Why must she fret,
this fragrant rose …
is she not meant
to know the essence

of her own red bloom?


December Lights

Back then, under a cold
December sun, you’d arrived naked.

I’d ask for permission
so you could stay under
my shadow.

You’d close my eyes
and open your skin

to walk me through brief appearances
of galaxies, infinite transit of heartbeats, death
strolling up our legs.



this is my story
and place of birth

a body wrapped in a sack
a childhood jerked around

like an unwarranted curse
and the stubborn useless desire

for a pair of untailored hands
climbing up my thighs



There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man.
It is the middle ground between light and shadow,
between science and superstition.
(Rob Sterling)

You, perfumed with silence —

What image caused your fruit to fall so quickly?
You left me shooting cannonballs
at non-existent stars.

Nothing ever removed the water
you gradually painted on my lips,

no theatres, nightclubs, tuxedos,
not even jetliners
or churches.


Two Tanka

Sparrows peep
as I walk to the drugstore…
searching for the day
when nothing remains
but a quivering mayfly

I’m talking to you,
seagulls that cry
like a great sad wheel —
the day my mother died
I rode a horse for hours



amber dragonfly
spellbound fossil on the bark
of an evergreen
morphed like a Gaudi sculpture
winter is ending

it is rumored
the dead float out of their tombs
molted water nymphs

it must be spring
the rain dulls my senses

I too burn
autumn’s wrinkled leaves
hide unforgotten

memories beneath
dark clouds

there is a stallion
in my living room
from summer’s


Tanka Sequence

erases the light
of your smile …
this burning inside


my shadow flees
through a dusk of words
a fog of books
until it reaches the line
where nostalgia ends


as I enter
the hospital room
a handkerchief
keeping her mouth closed …
furled leaves on the table


in the labyrinth
your voice under a tangle
of smoky stars …
illusions wither
with my words of love


I see a cloud,
it wants to sail to Timbuktu
Timbuktu and rain …
Where is Eden?
Is there a hammock there?


a warrior
confessed, relieved
of his burden …
fingerprinting the heart
evidence of an affair


between the shadows
of ancient saguaros
women tip-toe north
leaving a trail of blood …
tumbleweed caught in the fire


my scent, missing
from her body,
shed with her clothes …
crushed cotton scattered
from the door to the bed


I stumble home
wondering when his train
is coming in …
locker room full of birds
and chiseled, waxed chests



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