Tanka by Sergio Ortiz

Tanka by Sergio Ortiz

the corner of sky
heaven grants me
doesn’t let go–
its blue devours my fear,
hugs & talks sweetly to silence

lovely-haired creature,
this monster devouring
my verses,
this born-too-soon vermin
bellowing to God

I forge the sun
with your footsteps …
I digress, and bite
the heartbeat you tear
with your being, you’re here

Little Red Cap,
time to walk the path …
all that awaits
on this forest’s further side
is the house where I die

to be a stone
in the depth of the stone
I’d rather be
a cross in the depth
of the cross

you wrote: D  e  s  i  r  e
on the tablet of my heart …
I walked
for days and days
dazzled      aromatized      and sad

it’s December
it snowing with the voice
of Nina Simone …
my house, a bed where the hard
parts of love are covered

I can make it rain,
straighten twisted branches,
raise the dead …
I say, let there be light,
and the whole city’s godlike

the gale of thought
drags a tumult of words
I turn away
from the uproar
looking for stillness

who wants
to bring down the door
where I buried
my silence, silence paid for
with shame and lost pride

go ahead
take to flying, become a bee
you’ll be too old to soar
or sip the hyacinth in my garden

the dust
surrounding my bones
before dusk
honey distilled
from your lips to my lips

you brought
the murmur of a memory…
as small as snowflakes
in January

there’s a heartbroken
and rumors of lilacs
in my throat …
asking for asylum

I’m afraid
of not knowing
how to name
what doesn’t exist…
leaping from shadow to shadow

he was a no show
at the city without walls
of my heart…
listen to the torn blood
inside my violin

these prison bars
inside the apple of my eyes
open and close
like a hand-held fan…
you’re breaking my skin

the spider
measuring time is dead–
in summer,
hummingbirds dance
around your face

shin up the backs
of ghosts in a fire–
you fall flat on your ass
while listening to music

you back me up
against these walls…
loving you
in the shadows isn’t my fault,
another night in need

we die
without saving the world…
find beauty
in the remnants
of dead butterflies

let’s end
this with a bang…
about the dark,
stop holding out for miracles

let’s say
I won the race
and my shadow–
my treacherous shadow–
was my only competitor

I fled the claws
of dragonflies, that’s to say
I saw a woman
singing to her shadow
she sounded just like me

toss the pieces
of my broken heart
to the wind…
don’t make me say yes
when I want to say no

before the mirror–
my skin
a thousand sorrows

the closing door
of a cremation niche…
end of summer,
dawn is here and my heart
leaps out to greet it

in the end,
it was nothing more
than ghosts…
my ship coming in
with a cargo of laughter

my bed, a sea
where he could plunge
for pearls…
my body now
a louder rhyme to his


Sergio A. Ortiz is a gay 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. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.


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