Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Undertow Tanka Review Issue 11 is open for submissions until April 20th

Undertow Tanka ReviewIssue 11 is open for submissions until April 20th

Send up to 10 of your very best Tanka and/or Haiku to undertowtanka@gmail.com. We tend to favor surreal and modern tanka and haiku.  Surreal art is also accepted.

Shady Checo Man

Shady Checo Man



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Angel of Shiraz - It's Naw Ruz, The New Year, this one is dedicated to all the Baha'i martyrs


Angel of Shiraz
At 7:30pm, Saturday, 23 October, 1982
four armed guards pushed their way into Mona’s house.

Graceful emerald with crystal pearl eyes
wrapping the embrace of children to your heart.

Chasing hammer         cup bur-singing
seventeen sonnets of love, so young
it pains the curb.

Three tic-tacs feel like years
searching the drawers.
Closet knobs gripping the guards’ hands
as joyous temperatures rise
to their ruby peek.

“Loop lady, don’t say the emerald
is only seventeen.
Children follow what she speaks
like roses marching straight into Zion.”

I would die for You.

“Furkhundih, azizum joon mama.
Don’t worry. They are my brothers too.”

There are no good-byes
in that blindfolded prison of Sepah.

Leaf Mothers rush
from their heavenly chambers
in anguish to safeguard
the Emerald of Shiraz.
Insults, interrogations,

The Angel begs for the noose
to let her be the last.
She says: I chant the winds of change.
I will die for You.

Thursday Gypsy

Thursday Gypsy

Linda prepared for bed
confident she could not receive bad news.
It was Thursday, bad news
was announced in dreams on Fridays.

Linda walked over to the drawer
and took out the tied chicken legs,
and rubbed the tattoos, stricken
by the taunt of sailors, on the right side
of her neck for good luck.

Gypsies don’t read each other’s palms.
They understand war casualties, letter writing the fog,
black and white images that make you forget the wind.

She refused to think about the fuzz on his back,
how it spread to his buttocks.

The maid walked in the bedroom with the Acacia oil.
She was as thin as phyllo dough with a huge belly.
The señora wants me to brush her hair?

Wait. Please, wash your hands. My husband
will be home in the morning, I want my hair noticeable.
Look at you, skinnier by the day. Are you certain
about not telling me who the father is?

Señora, he is an important man.
He won’t give a shit about my baby.

Después de cruzar la calle

Después de cruzar la calle

loco con tu piel
pero luego       luego
te pienso más mío

más tiempo
más silencio                manantial
de planetas cósmicos
prestándole luz a mi sendero
salpicando de alegrías

(mis estrellas rotas o tal vez las nuestras)

y aquí estamos
tu sentado en mi lengua de roca
yo recostado sobre tu pensamiento de lluvia
comenzando a conocernos

Saturday, March 18, 2017



I stopped pushing salvation
on inner city streets after his funeral.

Maples lining the road home took me to the kimono
and the baby, anniversary gifts from my son.

Ruben changed clothes as soon as we got home
from Sunday school: mariachi, prime ballerina.
It was difficult to keep a straight face in the middle
of an argument with a little cross-dresser playing
in front of you.

The beginning of autumn,
that’s when he started collecting the feathers.
Ruben, lifeless. We found the first one
outside a Mud Wrestling Bar & Grill.
It had the Lord’s Prayer written on the barbs.
Soon, they were coming from all over the world.
He loved to collect them.

Close, my son was very close to his boy.
Closer than the rope he used to hang himself.
He couldn’t take the impact of Ruben’s passing.

I need to look in the mirror, put on the kimono,
cover my arms with the red yellow leaves of the sash,
to hide my teeth marks.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Martyrdom

The Martyrdom

One hundred and thirty-six mirrors
whirled around him
like a hurricane, the reflection
of his heart on The Hand
that shapes existence.

Mountains gathered around a line
of blood. Radioactive chain reaction
dripped from his open wounds, and I
despaired. He left me dressed
in shades of purple, aflame,
lowered back into my coffin.

The Smell of Sulfur

The Smell of Sulfur

The odor of sulfur
is as strong as the company brought
to the podium of Titans.
Gaia and Ouranos spit
angry epithets at each other
in the armory on Boulevard
where the effigy hides
bottles of gin.

On television, the rib-tickling,
righteous Titan gets an opportunity
to explain the notion of drowning
in the desert to the nation
recently targeted by white supremacist.

The program furthers
The Graven image’s intent
to build a wall. 
Is it to keep some out,
or trap everyone in?

Women tip-toeing north
through the desert
leave an uncomfortable trail of blood
too long to ignore,
rivers of pearls buried under the roots
of ancient saguaros on Cristero soil.

Words pronounced
by the Shebang Smoking Idol
don't mean a thing
to thirty million butterflies.
They were there first.



Willie, when Eloy showed me the wedding rings
I broke out in tears. I was so innocent, didn’t even know
why I followed you to Bolivia.

Yo fui la más callada
de todas las que hicieron el viaje hasta tu Puerto.

Write me a poem that will bring me back to life, papi.
Be my distraction, or I am going to find a tall, blue eyed angel
with baker hands and lips like James Dean.

A dormir se van ahora mis lagrimas
por donde tu cruzaste mi verso.

Negro, I’ve murdered myself so many times the effort is starting to hurt.
Someone stole my poetry. They wanted to teach me to write on paper.
As if everything I do isn’t already written in blood.
I begged mama to help me die, but she refused,
had to slash my own wrist.

Todos los ojos del viento
ya me lloraron por muerta.

Do you think ghosts can ask for asylum in Cuba?
Willie, take my clothes off. Look at my scars
without crying and tell me I’m beautiful. Don’t lie,
don’t cry. I need to drink a cup of coffee with you
reading me Ginsberg, Simic, and Julia de Burgos.

Yours forever, The Ghost.

*The Italicized verses are lines from poems written by Julia de Burgos

Thursday, March 16, 2017



You saddle the other me,
the one you empty
each disappearing dawn,
the bulldogger with a bitten lip.

I am crowned with psychedelic
corollas, dreams beyond dreams.
I learn to forget by forgetting.

There is nothing left of my ecstasies,
or the color of my obsessions,
not even the seize of your mouth
on my words.

A Reverie of Horror

A Reverie of Horror

He finds the hallway leading
to death's wrinkled Greta Garbo legs.

Children standing by their mother's broken mirror
have their own boleros to remember.

Spiders weave the stench
of his sour jungle, a vile outbreak
of colloquial monsters.

My father sings a duo
with my father.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On the Day of the Dead

On the Day of the Dead

On the day of the dead, Pablo put on his pants
one mummified foot at a time. It wasn't
his fault, rain was the true culprit. Clouds
followed his feet for years, poured whenever
he tried to cut bread in the City of Glass.
His soles cracked, sprouting roots.

Julia entertained on her balcony,
levitating intimate secrets. People on 42nd Street
attributed her faculties to a Santero visiting
her family on the day she was born.
She stood tall and elegant like the mountains
to the south of Black Island, Pablo's home.
Her face had traces of unforgettable pain.

They married. Julia, carried down the aisle
by two old lovers, found the last bottle of rum
hidden in the trash before the wedding.
She bled life into a gutter, no one recited her verses.
No one knew she was Ambassador to the Island of Poetry.

Pablo was one mummified foot at a time
closer to banging pots and starvation. Medicine denied,
orders from the dictator.

They are gone but I keep their marriage vows
to read out loud on the day of the dead.

Collective Madness

Collective Madness
Around the house the flakes fly faster,
And all the berries now are gone'
Birds At Winter, Thomas Harding

Overexposed driftwood
is what we are.
Bewitched by the light,
pretty little cento,
eclipse enchanted with rainbows.

Our childhood memories linger
like pastoral triolets rolling about meadows.
Luck has nothing to do with interpreting
the veils with which we choose to cover our faces.
Enlightenment happens after we fall.

Madness comes in the form of eyes
appended to blood dripping rocks
when our demons fail to cross the river.
Never is where we usually drink tea
and endlessly suck on lemons.
Smiles are inevitable
when we spar with strangers. 



A chorus of genuflections filtered through the kitchen
ventilator and knelt beside my bed around midnight.
I knew Georgina was dead. My rocking chair peeled
its mahogany finish in her honor.

There were loud knocks at the door. Neighbors  
packing axioms, guns, crucifixes, shovels.
“Hi, we were wondering about the odor?”

It’s not coming from here, I’m not dead yet.
Occasionally, I see apparitions of myself
standing by the window, behind the shower curtain,
but I still go fly fishing.

Mother came to me in a dream last night, gave me the password
to a house where boas reincarnate into possessed lizards
catching mosquitoes on maracas. She said, everything spoken
becomes water, blends.

I am going to stop talking for seven years,
but first let me repeat this a few more

Harmonizing the sacred          Harmonizing the sacred
            Harmonizing the sacred


Saturday, March 11, 2017

My first sin

My first sin

was to ridicule a mocker,
and hate him

with clear adoration.
For in so doing,
I became the beggar

and he the overlord
of my will.

Now I know the devil,
I know Rome in its last hour.

Gray and Dead

Gray and Dead

I’ve thought about dinner parties,
the theatre: things no longer
in the budget. Sex. Doctors.

I’ve thought about cohesion,
Clairol, Herbal Essence
and Eyeliner.

I’ve thought about outreach groups,
raisins, peaches, and kiwis.
Still-life paintings in my city.

I’ve thought about The Voice,
and meals on wheels.
About slam competitions,

and another twenty years of less,
and less of a line
that does not disappear on its own.

I’ve thought about mangrove crabs
living in mud holes, pushed
back into the closet.



I’m in love
with a homeless man.

Now listen,
we’ve got a lot in common,
H.U.D., lawyers,

We have heated discussions
about the face fucking
activity in the toilets
at the Whitehouse

but when he stares
at my dick
and licks my nipples

it’s just me
and him.

Para Recuperar la Desnudez

Para Recuperar la Desnudez

Mi pobre pueblo,
decenas de zapos y reptiles políticos
invadieron sus aguas.
Ahora todos nos odiamos.
Virus de ranas con putos zapatos
de cocodrilos.

Me huele a brea, y a trabajo forzoso.
Me huele a despedida, y a año electoral,
a mulato a punto de perder su reelección.
Me huele a rezo, a incienso
y a San Antonio de Padua naufragando.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The End of Night

The End of Night

I exist
to be conquered.
I, set against all other I’s,
am a stillborn poem
taken out of my mother’s womb.

Once I was immortal,
condemned to endless mornings,
empty of the knowledge
of manmade rituals.
Until out of my mouth that knows,
came the shape I was seeking.
Now I want to be
a waterfall of hummingbirds
covering our bodies.

Sometimes I read you
under another twilight.
In that half-light
your voice is different.

When you open your wings
you do not look like yourself
but I know that it’s you.

The Alembic

The Alembic

Soft humid hair trickles
from his torso to his belly button.
I moisten my lips.

When the fruit ripens,
he places it in containers

in scented Spanish Oak
and moss. But to me Jerez
is not what gives him

the fragrance of Montilla.
It only forces me to savor
the memory of his abdomen.

Dolphins and Moons

Dolphins and Moons

The sword of perfection is unworthy
of mention in my lovers presence
unless it be drawn with regret.

Bones wear out with age,
fire can be extinguished, but simplicity
is better chained to hearts,
like dolphins swimming around
the aura of a lunar eclipse

a centered pendant.

When my lover touches my hair
I shatter into dancing moons.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Invitation to Dust

Invitation to Dust

Am I poet or sheet of paper, my soul asks in the cruel infinite
/night of the sea that is never serene…
Manuel Ramos Otero, Invitación al Polvo

You, Manuel, the seductive arch
of a bay, a drop descending

on the half-light, feet circling
my suicide hour.

We were tangueros* of the same tile, tropical
byway, creek mist, and love's insomnia.

Dancers with the white
silent breeze of despair.

*Boleristas take their stilettos
for a stroll while you burn your tongue,

nail it to your pride.
I spit on you, all you neutered men

and women frightening children
playing in schoolyards.

You’re nothing but
a simple invitation to dust.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

The key you lost

The key you lost
lives like a fugitive on your skin.
It is the prelude to our memoirs,
a poem fused to nectarines, an exploration
through Copper Canyon, visions
of Haiti’s angels licking my ears,
a hypnotic belly dance on the sand
matching the colors that mesh
on your hip scarf, an experiment
we refuse to put down, an invitation
to cross the doorway of the home
I no longer occupy.

The key you lost is not the manual
of a digital camera, or calendar entries
for next month’s readings. It is not
a Popular Mechanics article you wrote
to put food on our table,
or a classified add on craigslist.

It wants to be the bungee jump
into the pangs of a deer in heat,
the obituary of bolted doors,
a list of all the vacant walls
on which we'll scribble
our erotic graffiti.



I gather lilies, set them on the bed
where you are absent. Gone.
Going up, going down, inside
a hotel elevator with a stranger
brushing his groin against your hand. 

Yes, stuck with another man
pushing his arm against your elbow. 
You slip away with him into a corridor
until you reach a door that he opens. 

You enter, let him take off your clothes,
while I wander about the house, looking
for you in the geometry of our bed,
with the fear of one who just arrived
to his first unrehearsed death. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Deadly Mirror

Deadly Mirror

Inconclusive thoughts,
what I hear inside my head.

My imagination flutters like a swallow,
and cries like a hungry baby.

I sit and play the saxophone
in self-contemplation.  The mirror

tells the truth, but not enough
to merit constant thought.

I am folding inward over and over.
Six inches of words

and I am betrayed, hypnotized
into believing I achieved

all there is to achieve in this art form.
So, I start a new contemplation

of the swallow, and I listen to fragmented
phrases, read life studies,

and notebooks, of his memoirs,
the flowers that sustain all of earth.

A Litany for Survival

A Litany for Survival

An elephant walked into my bedroom
reciting a litany for survival. 
She spoke about her mother and sister
having died too many deaths
that were not their own.
About winter people
taking off their blood masks
and monuments for the children of war.
About hunger and blind feet
trying to find their way to the sun.
About a greedy black unicorn
captive in Australia.
About having two faces
and a simmering frying pan
ready to cook up her daughters.
She spoke about men with stone eyes
fucking in the hallway,
Said the hall was covered
with beggars she couldn’t step over.
Perhaps, she wasn't meant
to survive after all.



Looking like a jungle
is where I am never myself.
I don't want to trip over the sounds
of the wilderness’s bewitching hour.
Life apart from the pain I conceal
from myself is impossible.

Come play in the rain.
This is not that same winter downpour
where December was you. Where the loss
of my dead became custom.

I counted the dead roses
in the garden. I forgot to write
my name on the mailbox.
You couldn't listen to my dreams.
I couldn't question yours.

The scars are still there.
I don’t know how many years I spent
trying to forget, or how many years
I’ll spend trying to remember.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

On my Bed Thinking about You

On my Bed Thinking about You

You are voiceless, buried
in a long-forgotten childhood hideaway,
a dark jungle where every tree
looks like every other tree.

I long for your scent,
your knees pushing against my thighs,
but what is asked for is often destroyed
by the very words that seek it.

It is time for me to crack open
my skull, invent a new way of looking at you.
I know I am dying but why
should that make a difference?

I will build you a fortress that will stand forever,
with a smile folding at the corner of my mouth,
and a star sitting on the tip of my tongue,
a lit stone around which your body can blossom.

My bed will no longer be the fossilized prison
where I learned to make love to you forever.

For those days when the lights switch on and off

For those days when the lights switch on and off

by themselves and I hear voice messages
from longstanding enemies.
For the good old days when I rely
on verses I already wrote
to keep from slashing my wrists.

For the fear of failing
that haunts me every December.
Will this be the year my planet refuses
to forgive me with a blush of green
long enough to soothe my heartaches?

For the assumptions of next winter’s chill
and the quiet days in between.
Your face among the poinsettias
after every prayer and rainfall.
The only image I long for.

Some poems up at Thesongis

Sorry, but I've been sick and in some pain.  Today I feel a little better.  Anyway, some poems up at Thesongis 

Monday, February 20, 2017



you are
                   a foul day
                             in my lonely life
on appeal
               the faint green
                                  to the south
of my border

Blog Archive


About Me

My photo
San Juan, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico
Sergio A. Ortiz is a 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 2016 Best of the Net nominee. 2nd place in the 2016 Ramón Ataz annual poetry competition, sponsored by Alaire Publishing House. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sergio A. Ortiz es poeta puertorriqueño que escribe en inglés y español. Actualmente trabaja en su primera colección de poesía, Elephant Graveyard, Cementerio de Elefantes. Ha sido nominado al premio Pushcart en dos ocasiones, al Best of the Web en cuatro ocasiones, y al Best of the Net, 2016. 2do lugar Premio Ramón Ataz de Poesía, 2016. Sus poemas han aparecido, o están por aparecer, en revistas literarias como: Letralía, Chachala Review, The Accentos Review, Resonancias, por mencionar algunos.