Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 2


Poems by Leila Ortiz


I Wear Dog’s Teeth in my Mouth

A sunset, a pebble
and monster truck
all fit inside my mouth.
Inside my mouth is a family,
a village, a funeral.
All the people
in my mouth
are singing: Don’t chew, please
don’t chew on us.

But my mouth isn’t
vicious, just anxious.
And besides my mouth
is a flower.
And what about
ribcage, lungs,
liver? The bile
in my belly as
I watch TV?
How can my mouth
retain dignity
when its corners
droop or food is
too salty?
My mouth is a fog horn
seeking its way
in a fog.
Birds get caught
in the grief
of my mouth.
They stay a while,
then die.
My mouth refuses
to release them.
Is that an antelope
or is it a deer
crossing the road
as headlights in the darkness
grow larger and larger?
When a warm,
enormous body is lifted
off ground, smashing
into the windshield,
could it be the
blood-soaked grass
of the next morning,
a golden orb spilling
golden light, and
thousands of tiny insects
buzzing about
all live inside
my mouth?




Little House on the Prairie

Was my favorite show. Mostly because
Laura Ingalls. Oil-slicked hair. Un-pigmented.
Pig-tailed. And the actress who played her
became sexy. Got her teeth fixed. Dated
Rob Lowe. Re-runs every evening at 5:00pm.
In the winter it was dark outside my
window. In the summer it was hot, the
fire truck blared at the most dramatic part:
Mary telling Pa, I can’t see, I can’t see.
There was Doc Baker and Mrs. Olsen,
Charles’ scruffy friend with the beard,
and of course, Nellie and Willie. In church
they sang “Bringing In the Sheaves.” They
were good people wearing overalls and
aprons. Simple, good people who had
hardships and triumphs.
Wait a minute.
Rewind.

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The Saddest Lines

Are ribbons in my hair tonight.
In my lamp-lit kitchen I
sweat worry, puncture a can
of heavy cream, write
to-do-lists and ignore them. The
horizon of this splintered winter, saddest
on record. Trees bow their heads in lines.
I sip a cup of wine, write
myself a note: Don’t worry. You’re okay for
now.
Hibernation is an example
of coping. How else can I breathe the
sharp darkness of night?
My laptop is
full of cold light. All the shattered
news it brings. And
another thing, call me Blue.
My heart is a cluster of stars.
Something dear to me is dying. I shiver
like a shack in
wind. Maybe the
mind is bridging distance.


Leila Ortiz is of Puerto Rican, Cuban and Irish descent. Leila was born on Manhattan's Lower East Side and raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Apogee, Bodega, Glitter Mob, No, Dear Magazine, Permafrost, Sixth Finch, and Tinderbox, among others. Leila is the author of two chapbooks, Girl Life (Recreation League, 2016) and A Mouth is Not a Place (dancing girl press, 2017). Leila is a graduate of the Queens College MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation.




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