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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

.         heart-pounding

.         girl     girl      girl

here        they teach love sacrifice

so i deny myself          three times:

  1. all girls get crushes on girls,

        Google tells me

  1. she doesn’t make you nervous,

.         that’s just your social anxiety

  1. 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

is prayer.

.         .         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.


Undercut Season


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

open mouth—your

name is mine. your

mountain-tops and

ancient forests,

the brisk brush,

salt-breeze, the

bush-gum damp.

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

behind. mythologise

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

reckless burning.

I won’t be here to

watch you flourish,

but there will be

God, taking it in.Undercut Season notes:

  1. The poem’s title is after by Lorde’s song ‘Buzzcut Season’ from her 2013 album Pure Heroine.
  2. 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.”

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