filed06 Oct 2009 fromCarmen Jenner
Radames Ortiz has contributed to numerous literary journals including, Gulf Coast, Texas Observer, Open City, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cortland Review and Exquisite Corpse. His work has been collected in various anthologies which include US Latino Literature Today, Regeneration: Telling Stories from our Twenties, and Is This Forever, Or What?: Poems and Paintings from Texas. In 2003 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, awarded an Archie D and Bertha Walker fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and awarded the Naomi Shihab Nye Scholar from 2006-2008. You can follow Radames on twitter @radameso and read his blog at http://theamplifiedbard.blogspot.com
STRANDED AT O’HARE
They choke the halls of Terminal 3
with their lush baggage
and tiny wheels scuffling the gilded tiles
Luggage carousels groan
under jaundiced light
It is 4 a.m. The rush to hail
taxies in fluttering snow
The dash to sulfurous stank
of motel rooms
Desperate, quick pace
of anonymous arrival
Some will meet lovers
blood flowing from their faces,
the last of their kind
Others sit sickly, nostalgic
with gravedigger eyes
There’s the Hasidic Jew
from the Lower East Side
barking into a cell phone
The Nigerian woman
waiting to reunite with her luggage
Each walk past the caged
vessels of pupils
A blur of torn stockings
The scaffolding of legs,
of potbellied tourists
in mutinous scurry
Lyrical and savage
the way only captives can do it
© Radames Ortiz
A Boston fireman and his drunken friends
eye me suspiciously, hold my
Southern drawl at arm’s length.
Then offer to buy me a drink
and make room at their table.
I tell them how I flew in a seven-seater plane
over the ocean then shared a cab
with a Norwegian to Pearl street,
a few blocks away from here.
They probe into things back home,
like Enron, the weather, that crazy
woman who drowned her
children in a porcelain tub.
Their weary faces and six
blinking eyes serve the moment
while I show them a picture
of my father when he was thirteen.
Tinted brown around the edges,
They hold his picture against
the agitated dark, laugh
at his checkered apron.
I admit it’s funny too, my
father standing in the kitchen,
holding a frying pan like a trophy,
against linoleum background,
brilliant in his infancy.
Then back to this shitty bar
with wooden stools and tables,
over-priced long island ice-ts.
Back to this fireman, his heated
breath, inviting me outside
for a cigarette, my cue to leave
to tease my way to the empty studio
and its cobwebs wrestling with flies.
A dance beat breaks beneath
a constellation of stilled feet.
I am miles away from home,
surrounded by men, their hallow
chests, g-strings and sculpted hair.
Gay porno on television screens.
Legs open, all thighs and testicles.
I sip a rum and coke among those
who move like different animals
Their bodies slick with sweat,
coastlines of tampered stomachs.
No one dances in this place
where darkness smokes the eyes,
ancient ritual of genitals.
Bare torsos, ornamented wolf skins,
stone bodies locked in muteness.
I half-watch these men,
hearts shuddering out of control,
their locked groins—all
in communion with the flesh.
To the sand dunes we go
climbing and sinking into
soft walls. Salt grains receding
like tide lines, leaving and returning.
The moon and those distant glowing
stars watch as we bury
our dead, our drunken ghosts
beneath sand castles and high weeds.
We lose each other in darkness,
me screaming your name, fear
of breaking bones, being caught and still.
You scream back, “Over the ocean
There is no use and the hangover
clears the fog.
In the distance, you keep
surfing the edge of dunes
as I curl up in waves
Between blue hills and headlights
a new world
as I listen to a roar, an ocean:
my own dear pulse.
© Radames Ortiz