on the table
‘ritual’ and other poems – Kaya Ortiz
Kaya Ortiz Lattimore is Filipinx, mixed race, an immigrant, queer, a writer and poet, among other things.
On The Page is a series of writing and poetry submitted to the Centre for Stories as part of the 2019 Centre for Stories Inclusion Matters Hot Desk Fellowship.
Kaya Ortiz Lattimore is Filipinx, mixed race, an immigrant, queer, a writer and poet, among other things. Kaya grew up in the Philippines and Hobart, and as of 2019 moved to and now lives in Perth.
Get to know more about Kaya here.
it always begins in God’s house
. a girl
i am blood-flushed skin
. girl girl girl
here they teach love sacrifice
so i deny myself three times:
- all girls get crushes on girls,
. Google tells me
- she doesn’t make you nervous,
. that’s just your social anxiety
- you can’t be gay.
. that’s it you just can’t.
i’m well-versed at it.
on the other side
of migration, all i have
. . did you know
. the girls here shave
. their legs and
. lie in the sun
. to brown?
i ignore the signs
like i want to kiss a girl
and i forget the question
but that was to be expected.
i make a habit of beginning.
i ask God what it is
. she wants from me:
. every year for seven
. years the same question.
. (to be fair, i was distracted
by the white girls and their rituals
by the god inside my head.)
a sacrifice for the answer:
. the crack of my mouth.
instead, i quiet.
. . i still.
. i wait.
Kitchen scissors to my long black
hair, the clippers on the sink.
Outside, jacaranda trees line streets,
purple smashed into concrete.
Last full-moon violet night I made
out with Brie Larson in a
dream. She told me Captain Marvel
is definitely 100% gay and that
I would totally rock an undercut.
The mirror stares at me,
hair on the floor, clippers buzzing
over Janelle Monáe singing
‘I’m cutting up, don’t cut me down.’
I am a kind of Disney-animated
Mulan, queer and desperate
to [ pass / hide / fail ].
The ritual is familiar—at seventeen
I cut off all my hair and tried
not to stare at two girls just holding
hands. Now the back of my
head is black fuzzy velcro and I run
my hands over and over it.
And the scars on my wrist are just that,
scars. I watch movies with the
girl I like. She smells like lavender
ice cream and this is all my
purple-stained joy. I put the clippers
down, brush cut hair from my
neck. On my phone Janelle Monáe
sings, ‘Even if it makes others
uncomfortable, I will love who I am.’
My colour’s purple. I’m here.
(earth is) another word for prayer
our mother earth:
altar, ancestor, my
name is mine. your
the brisk brush,
my body, yours.
my hunger, yours.
you speak nothing
so vulgar as english.
i unhinge my jaw.
no key for a mother
tongue but memory,
palms against the soil.
forgive me my salt,
my decades of taking.
i am a mother with
no children, but you
are all our mothers,
the wound we leave
us, and then let the
fever take its course.
is this not how the
body heals? salt
purged from every
crevice. forgive me
my ashes, my own
I won’t be here to
watch you flourish,
but there will be
God, taking it in.Undercut Season notes:
- The poem’s title is after by Lorde’s song ‘Buzzcut Season’ from her 2013 album Pure Heroine.
- The last line of the poem is written after the last line in Ross Gay’s poem ‘Sorrow is Not My Name’, after the Gwendolyn Brooks poem ‘To the Young Who Want to Die’.
(earth is) another word for prayer note:
This poem quotes lines from Brenna Twohy’s poem ‘& I’m Sorry.’ The lines are “forgive me my salt / my decades of taking” and “then there was god, / taking it in.”