This week we bring you brilliant and searing work by poet mónica teresa ortiz for our series "This Work Will Take Dancing" highlighting the poetry and of Latinx writers in the U.S. South. As hundreds of thousands of immigrants are being hunted under the white supremacist orders of the federal government, more families are seeking community refuge, or "sanctuary," which has also informed a language of solidarity for organizing towards a society that prioritizes safe home for all regardless of where they come from. Ortiz writes of the way "sanctuary" might mean a kind of distance or erasure for those who are not forced to live within a constantly hunted body, "Some think sanctuary means nothing but a spot to gather artistic inspiration to be one with nature while doing yoga." Writing with and towards a poet who also wrote in a time of fascism, ortiz's "lorca" gives us a convocation for the future we may invoke: "Empires aren't built alone I say. We build empires and call it intervention. Another word for invasion. We will watch as empires fall."

Read more from 'This Work Will Take Dancing' here.

lorca

Today I found a dead cat wrapped up in a dish towel, delicately disposed on the sidewalk. Who does the body belong to? You asked where your grave was. I didn't know where to look. T.S. Eliot said that humankind cannot bear very much reality. I write to you from a place after hope. Racism isn't condemned to geography, but it is cemented into the sidewalks. My neighbor planted a yard sign that says: In this house, we are still outraged. The poet Roger Reeves says we are not separate from the perpetuation of violence. He calls it civilized outrage. He calls it trafficking the spectacle. Empires aren't built alone I say. We build empires and call it intervention. Another word for invasion. We will watch as empires fall. Torch lit from Prometheus' rope burned wrists. Language is violent as in violence took you. Violence will take us all as the border took my grandfathers. No one in my family knows the location of my great grandfather's body or if he's even underground. His body doesn't have a home. Stabbed in a street in Mexico, left for dead. His name was Salvador but that did not save him. I wonder what thoughts crossed Lorca's mind when he faced the firing squad. If he knew that there is another life. That the odyssey begins after death. Dearest Lorca, I am not a gravedigger, I am only just the ferryman.

archaeology

Some folks think sanctuary means a 23-acre oasis where peacocks gifted to the Mayfield-Gutsch family in the 1930s roam free. Some folks think it involves the largest Sabal Texana palm trees north of the Rio Grande River. Or lush gardens bordering ponds, walled in by rocks and that liberal desert of a city further west that passes over the eye of a needle called Shoal Creek[1]. Some think sanctuary means nothing but a spot to gather artistic inspiration to be one with nature while doing yoga, reciting passages from Pema Chodron or reclaiming quiet away from cranes stretching the sky. Some folks think sanctuary is a retreat where visitors bask in a cool calm, watching their pulse reduce.


[1] Shoal Creek should be considered a boneyard, a boneyard of fossils, of final breaths, of Georgetown Limestone and Ash Juniper trees. There along the dry bed, where hundreds of white rocks stacked restless like bald eyes, were where both an ichthyosaurus (unearthed on an archeological dig) and Larry Jackson Jr, a man unlawfully executed by Austin Police Detective Charles Kleinert in 2012, drew in one last lungful of Cedar Elm.

mónica teresa ortiz

mónica teresa ortiz was born and raised in Texas. The author of the poetry collection, muted blood, and the chapbook, autobiography of a semiromantic anarchist, published in 2019, ortiz currently lives in the Texas Panhandle.