by Sergio A. Ortiz
A Matter of Habit
“…you must say words, as long as there are any, until they find me, until they say me, strange pain, strange sin, you must go on, perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on”
― Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
You learned to make those stone-cold
don’t-fuck-with-me faces in fifth grade
while I excelled at English, math, and history.
I knew words, numbers, and dates
would never betray me.
In high school, we drifted away
as you sought the approval of boys. You sacrificed
half your humanity to fit in. I circled the edge
of the pool and dove in. For me, “outside” became a habit.
You stopped riding wooden horses
to the school cafeteria. I spoke “love” in codes to boys
like wetting my lips while staring at their legs
flying above the pommel horse.
Years later, I learned to laugh at the pile of rejected poems,
the overdrawn checking account, the rushed anniversary gifts.
In fact, I managed to get over my The Crying Game moment.
I’d like to imagine you did the same, that after all the men
you’re happy dating girls, playing tackle football,
and pissing in the urinals.
“Get out of my dreams, get into my car”
the man had the nerve to drop
that line on me. The worst part was,
my universe crammed and I vibrated.
God, he looks so much like the cities I love,
and the cities I lost.
I saw him in Paris
petting my cat, in Madrid
opening a bottle of Dom Perignon
in the Jacuzzi on New Year’s Day,
in the songs of cicadas
that escaped summer by hiding
in the trees of Perth.
And here I am, with no sun in sight,
in the midst of what by force,
out of love, and by custom,
I choose as mine, while I wait
to see if he asks me again.
Amour, pourquoi ne pas monter
dans ma voiture?
Cirque Du Soleil
I started piano lessons in 3rd grade. My stepfather made me practice every day for two hours on a cardboard keyboard. Six months later, he showed up with an enormous organ inside a suitcase. It was then I discovered “Misty,” by Johnny Mathis. That month I caught my piano teacher playing the violin, and fell in love with a man for the first time. He placed all his existence on the tip of his fingers, and I couldn’t breathe. I lost my balance. Insomnia set in like a guardian angel. March 16th 1988, despite the rain, the fireworks in Iraq, the hands inside broken pockets, the hollow eyes where sleeplessness leans on, despite the Queer Nation tattoo on my back, the piano player inside me, the mute language of desire knocked on my door. There I am, lying on my bed unarmed. And there was Welder standing at the side of my bed with a boom box playing Misty, asking me to dance. I got up and stopped in front of lips asking for my lips, the smile open to the world, the song born out of the wound of death. I penetrated his pupils full of stealthy desires, and we took to the sky, two seagulls romancing the clouds.
When he dreams about himself
he takes on the body of an angry elephant.
Sometimes he chases himself out of the dream
and wakes up scared, by my side.
I have the rest of night to become invisible
in his shadow. The life he leaves
in that wilderness is sad and growing.