Editor’s note: The poems of Lisa Ortiz have appeared in “Zyzzyva,” “Comstock Review,” “The Dirty Napkin,” “Pedestal,” and “Crab Creek Review.” She was a recipient of a 2007 and 2008 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prize, and her work has been featured on “Verse Daily.”
I have decided against the castle
and leave it empty.
In the gatehouse, the ticket taker
is hunched and picking at his nails.
I leave behind the bereft queen,
the perfidious king, they way she does him in
with scissors, the line about mercury and blood.
Instead I pull in circus imagery:
elephants with satin ribbons, sequined women,
clowns with carnivorous mouths,
and behind it all the broke-down trailers
where the real acts happen.
I will take out the stanza about acrobats
an overreaching metaphor for love
the way it dances on tiptoe
how the fall is choreographed
how I should have known.
I will take out your name.
I will leave in this part here,
in which the speaker stands alone
in the empty lot, dry grass and plastic cups.
She creases the program between her fingers
She kicks up tiny torrents of dust;
she is glum but satisfied.
Partly, I was mussed
and then what. You
fussed—forgot the good
in me. Frankly
you left. Oh loneliness!I am empty: a howling,a bluff, a dark shaft, tailings,a single plastic bag, rising.
On an island of sugar sand
we are bone thin.
I wait up for you. In the morning
my eye sockets are two dredged harbors.
The Buddha said: spread your heart like a rug
for company. Sweep it.
You are the only visitor I want. The rocking does not stop
even after months on the mountain.
Were I farmer, I would grow seas
of flowers and grains: you could row home.
I close my eyes and the boat tilts. You
hold me as we go under.
A whole field of grasses
blazing in tribe and genus,
and here’s my heart: last year’s dried-up fruit.
I waited for you: my iconic prince
my ghost-robed invalid, my great regret.
Give others the lavender and aster
the lupine, the blazingstar.
I like the bitter stuff. Lay me in the water
with beggar-ticks and coltsfoot.
Anyone can choose pretty. It takes
a half-grown woman to choose wild.