Poems by Jina Ortiz

Señor Solomon



visits mother on days
her blood stops, and he comes
to her nights and mornings,
when the roosters cock
and humming birds sing
their embryonic songs.

Touch is what he is after.
At night, he caresses mother
and forgets about his wife,
children, and mansion. On trips
to Europe or America,
he remembers my brother and I,
our hazelnut gaze and coconut
smell, becoming one body again.


My brother’s brit milah
was too be expected―short, cut, and to the hide.
His fair skin and mangled curls
resemble Señor Solomon’s head,
as he grew older―a temper,
edgy nerves and an ability to question
the smallest details of life,
including insects, mother’s garments,
purifying sugar, milking cows, and
inspecting the insides of automobiles,
in every moment, my brother
reminded me of Señor.

He never gave us his name―
illegal and without a family
mother became our passport.
The last day we went to temple,
I wore a black dress that covered
my knees and shoulders mourning
under the sun’s torturous rays.
Now, we travel with clouds
showing off our skin in the wind.


Everyone says that we are his yellow children.
All these whisperings come from the kitchen,
faint stories of Doña Leah’s large face
staring from behind the window’s curtains.

All these whisperings whoosh by the kitchen door,
the housemaid becomes mother’s best friend.
She stares from behind the window’s curtains.
The woman who keeps me from my name,

is not the housemaid or my mother’s best friend.
Brushing against fire with each step,
a woman bans me from my royal name.
I came face-to-face with his wife,

brushing against fire with each step.
Stories are shared of Doña Leah’s dotted visage.
I came face-to-face with his wife;
she told me ‘you are his yellow children.’

The Birth of Sepharad

The birth of Sepharad came in the night.
Not like the star of Bethlehem,
or the chasing after a dream,
more like the sweep of dust at the break
of dawn, swirling at the winds
direction. Tell my sons there is no need
to cover their heads inside,
or wash their hands and feet
before entering a house.  Tell them
I’m breathing between two oceans,
gold and silver, precious stones and metals.
Sepharad’s veins of sulphur, porphyry,
marble and crystals will not suffocate
me any longer.  For death looms
under the Alhambra’s arches and its
royal rugs are now filled with grayed
ballroom dancers with flamenco fans and shoes,
and how I love you Sepharad, but death emerges beneath
your gaze that loves me less than starred gems.

Jina Ortiz’s poetry has been published in the Sahara, Afro-Hispanic Review, Calabash, Poui, New Millennium Writings, Solstice Magazine, The Caribbean Writer, New Works Review, Worcester Review, amongst others. She has received residency fellowships from the Art Omi/Ledig House International Writers’ Residency, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and (VCCA), Vermont Studio Center. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing-Poetry at The Solstice Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA.



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