Sergio A. Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. 2nd place in the 2016 Ramón Ataz Annual Poetry Competition. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FRIGG, Tipton Poetry Journal, Drunk Monkeys, Bitterzeot Magazine, and *ONE*: Jacar Press. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, *Elephant Graveyard. *
Between Two Bastions
I am the guestbook pages
hundreds of people, with a single name
and many languages, sign.
Elegies chase after me.
I believe in the elephant, if he sings verses,
in music, when it creates itself,
in the flower of the Nile
when it isolates its soul after death,
in the storyteller, if he takes off his shoes
before lighting the funeral pyre.
I am the earth in clusters of unknown maps,
reason in the consciousness of unconsciousness,
the smell of fingers in the knitted shawl,
the pencil in its paperless orphanage.
I am the fire-eater on death’s mount,
the dancer in the open-air festivals
of murderous sheikhs who renounce
their right to my alms.
I am the book of doubt in the Word,
the temple walls with drawings
of a thousand scenes of passion,
the tired god as he walks the streets alone
carrying the secrets spiders revealed.
Cartography of Dreams
By the time you arrive
I’ll possess night in my hands.
It carries the sleeplessness of the rooftops
in its peak, the distant humidity of the streets
that lack your footsteps.
I wear wings borrowed from tonight,
and retain the warmth of its arms
for when you decide to sleep.
Come: Tonight, we dine on the moon!
Like winter born
on one December afternoon,
I felt the urge to journey
all the way to silence
and listen to a breath of lights.
I dragged a heap of leaves
towards me. They stopped
before I swept them.
Leaving memories lying
on the dark waters of sleep.
It was as if your voice came from the side
of my body, or the echo of your smile
inside some other ear,
those clear labyrinths open to voices.
It was the dying perfume of rain,
the distance pending caresses keep,
the smiles that never crossed each other,
and walking barefoot
where the sun won’t shine.
It’s that I know you won’t be there,
and I won’t untie myself
from the bones of your name.
An Early End to Life
My skin, scroll written
by your trembling hands,
refulgence of your epidermis
in my skin’s blind memory.
My complexion, the crystallized
mirror of your smile
strolling through this world
devoid of trust.
What you cried, “don’t hold your breath,”
is learning to ramble the earth.
What you called “love affair” is not blood
but it watered my body’s garden as if it were.
Yes, everything I own
is yours, yet I know
lives to the finish.
That makes the very life
you give me