sporklet 7

Leila Ortiz

Blesséd Art Thou Among Children

Bless our asses in tight jeans,
bless hoops and Newports,
evening news reports.
We’re that empty, angry crew.
Tagging up in vestibules
and on the awnings of bodegas, daring you
to hate us. Bless our blasphemy.
Our faces are masks, not only on
Halloween, stupid. We climb trees and
smoke blunts, eat icies in dusk.
Bless that girl killed in the park.
We can’t remember her name.
We blast the sky to shrapnel.
Tip over and our grief spills.
Bless our bad acid trip.
We’re the Village Slashers
fucking behind churches.
Bless the lurch of getting jumped
from behind by four or five.
We can’t see in front of us.
Bless that inch of darkness.
Bless hot summer swelter—
we never sleep. Walk the crooked
line of streets, titties just developing.
Bless laced-weed. We don’t know
what’s happening. We don’t mean
to spit on you. Later we’ll regret it.
We can’t get enough of beats
and beatings. We slip in dog shit.
Lie about our age. Alone in back rooms.
Bless our doom.

Night Surrender

All of us on a stoop.
Late, too late

to be out. We like to squat
in black and blue

night. We are owls
with pocket-knives.

Stoop summer of
uncertainty. Colt 45

tastes like rain
and bone. This girl Myca

left alone by parents
off vacationing. The Beastie

Boys whine, the girlie
was def and she wanted to go,

but we stay till night
expires. Taking dares

and setting them on fire.
This couple walks by

probably coming
from a party. They laugh

at something not funny.
We must look like kids

because the man smiles
and asks if we smell pancakes,

making our anger
pop. Jonah

follows them up the block.
All I hear is the woman

saying stop, stop.

Dance Contests & Broken Bones

Sometimes luck
is dumb.

I broke my collarbone
three times.

I also won
a dance contest

wearing a tube top
and tiny yellow shorts.

It was Milagros’s birthday,
her sisters were the judges.

My mother roasted
chicken. I remember

the wishbone
cracking. Between my

pointer and thumb, I held
the shorter end.

It was always time
for bed.

My mother once leapt
across a room

to smack me in the face.
That’s how I learned

about eruption. Or maybe
I learned another way.

My mother cooked meatloaf
on Sundays. I kicked Milagros

with my roller skates
and felt like hell.

The last time I broke
my collarbone

I didn’t bother
with the sling.

Instead I rode my bike
around the block,

It was painful

to do ordinary things.
So my mother

washed my hair,
poured warm water

from a cup.
No one ever told me change

is constant.

Girl Natural

Her braces cut into
the soft side of her lips. Swollen mouth
smoking cigarettes.

There’s a boy named _________.
His eyes are a color.
He scratches a river

into her hand.
Her shirt lifted up,
exposing shame.

Laughter is ringing
wind and trickle
of water. She walks

to the park
where the trees
lost their leaves

and children balance
on top of stones.
Instead of cola

she drinks beer,
takes the long way

We Heard

her tits are
putty, nipples

wide as Frisbees.
Skank. Her hair

is greasy.
We heard she lies

and says she cleans it

Poser. She’s faking
her slang.

We heard her
say Word,

in a room with two
boys, drunk.

They hover over
as she lays

flat. That’s what
we heard.

She staggers out,

Shut the fuck up,
we say. We heard

that girl’s a split

Her heart’s
a dirty rag.

Slope Love

We go to the vestibule of a random brownstone. Pull down
each other’s pants. This is how we get it on. We have nowhere
else to go. I wear my uniform skirt with thigh highs underneath.

He once told me only white people brush their teeth after breakfast
instead of before. His mom told him that.

She carries the groceries home wearing heels
and pants that hug her shapely ass. She cooks for him,
puts ketchup on his eggs. His dad goes to the games
at St. Saviors talking too loud and stumbling.

I don’t mind fucking in vestibules as long as we don’t get caught.
Except I always cry when we’re done. Did I mention, I cry a lot.

One snowy night at the Dirty Donut a little old lady
with penciled eyebrows burst through the door and said,
Bah, snow! She had a beat up old coat, a plastic bonnet pulled tight
around her head. I loved that little old lady.

He liked her too. Sometimes he’ll look at me and say,
Bah, snow! It always makes me laugh. He says it to stop me
from crying but it sometimes it doesn’t work.

Did I tell you, he listens to Hardcore and draws
really well. I once stole a sketch he did of his living room
right off of the display in school. He’s the first person
to love me. It’s cold.

Leila Ortiz is a counselor who works with students in NYC public schools. They are lucky to have her. I like these poems because they capture the ferocity, pain, tenderness, and enormity of adolescent girlhood. They are full of cultural artifacts from the best parts of my generation. Graffiti/skateboard/hip-hop/punk culture in the 90’s was so creatively and artistically explosive, but also super accessible. Anyone could participate. Engaging in those communities/practices gave me a sense of who I was and who I could aspire to be. These poems feel like that. —Matt L. Roar