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Featured Poet: Sergio Ortiz


Sergio A. Ortiz is a gay Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He writes in English and Spanish. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee and a 2017 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared in The Acentos Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, and a great number of other literary journals.

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,
already waiting for me.

It was 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.

Anatomy of Failure

My mother never forgot the sky
that illumined the square of my town.

She talked about the gazebo in front
train station, the aqueduct arches
which brought the turbid sound of water
in the mornings.

The mist reached her thoughts,
she listened to the young man’s footsteps
as he swept the square
with his broom of mallows.

The light coming through the window
lit up her face. The bitterness
of her empty hands hurt.

No breath ever incited her hair.

My mother was an abandoned house.
My father, the one who lived inside.

Farewell to Black

Breaking bones
with bones
that’s how you left,
like bird’s leave
like your last light step.

There are black marks
in the name you were given.

But these things stay,
mystery with its dim black shadow,
your deep enthusiasm for sadness,
the ebony black, deadly vertigo
that overpowered you,
like the tears I cry for myself.

The soul comes out of you
without recognizing sizes, figures.
You grope, embrace what is not.

Little by little life blew you upward,
hit and hurt you, crashing what was already stopped,
like before, like your last light step.

Reasons to post a photo of a dead child from Aleppo

Omran was a Syrian boy and African and Afghan and
Salvadoran: Our son defeated in front of the sea after chasing
the dawn, our little brother cleft by the blows of the crab that
was death, nothingness, emptiness, a thick river of icy water.
Our child like all innocent children whom they bombed in
Aleppo and are no longer: I want nothing more from this
world. Everything I dreamed of disappeared. I need to bury
my children and sit next to them until I die.
Omran survived
hunger, thirst and despair, but not the Syrian government,
not the world who did not know, or care, how to save him.

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