Jina Ortiz

Jina was born and raised in Harlem, New York City.  She received her B.A. in Comparative Literature and History at Clark University in Worcester, MA.  She presently lives in Worcester, MA and has been teaching in public and private schools for the last five years; she is also a teacher consultant with the Central Massachusetts Writing Project.  Her community work extents to the Worcester Community Action Council, Inc, where she was an AmeriCorps member for 2002-2003, and thereafter has been serving on the City of Worcester’s Human Rights Commission.  For the last four years, she has been a student at the Worcester Art Museum’s Writers Workshops.

 Currently, she is a grant writer for the Stone Soup Artist Collective.  She is also a fashion designer.  Her poetry has been published in the Sahara, Afro-Hispanic Review, Calabash, Poui, New Millennium Writings, The Caribbean Writer and forthcoming in the Worcester Review, where she won first honorable mention in the Worcester Review Poetry Contest.  She has received residency fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), the Ragdale Foundation, The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow and a fellowship grant from the Worcester Cultural Commission. Her first poetry collection is entitled Miss Universe: the world’s pageant poems, and is currently searching for a publisher.  

She has been featured in the local Worcester newspapers, including El Vocero Hispano and Worcester Magazine.  She is presently working on a children’s novel tentatively titled The Annunciation of Teresa Reyes.


Central Massachusetts Writing Project Anthology: “The Communion Photo,” and

“Mrs. Jackson.” Summer 2003

Sahara: “Peninsula or Pistol,” Elizabethan Press. Summer 2003

Afro-Hispanic Review: “War on this Island,” “Brazil,” “My Island Dream,” and “Miss Universe.”

University of Missiouri at Columbia.  Spring 2004.

Calabash: “Six Poems of the Little Island of Mine,” New York University. Fall  2006

Poui: “Les Gonaïves, Haïti after Hurricane Jeanne,” and “Perico Ripiao,” University of the West Indies at Cave Hills, Barbados.  2006.

New Millennium Writings: “In coca fields,” University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Summer 2006

The Caribbean Writer: “sugarcanes,” University of the Virgin Islands. Summer 2006

Worcester Review: “Santo Domingo Blues,” Worcester County Poetry Association. Winter 2006


Chocó, Colombia


October rain floods the streets in Chocó,

as mattresses float with toddlers panhandling

above cotton fibers brown with mold, maps

the lines of bound women with open scars,

dangling broken glass, breaking ice refrigerated

to numb tears of anger, running down a pandemic.


Africa’s dream dies with the AIDS pandemic,

Colombian blacks are like coffee beans in Chocó,

and squatters save eggplants above refrigerators.

Their daughter’s dowry invisible to every panhandler,

every girl crossing borders, uncrossing ties to seal scars

written with pen and ink, drawing circles on a map


of a large China and a small Africa, mapping

her way down dark alleys under stars lighting a pandemic,

burning the symptoms of falling angels with whipping scars

as snakes with belt buckle eyes like the children of Chocó

slither across swamps, across suburban streets panhandling

their next victim, when their tongues stand refrigerated


in air gripping the last grape leaves refrigerated

on top of a kitchen counter, over a matted map

with cookie crumbs, but if the last panhandler

in town testified, he would say, “this too is a pandemic

for I have seen rivers and tears submerge the people of Chocó.”

Even the dances of the elder’s vallenato could cure scars


seen through a slave’s eyes, through empty scar

tissues after the surgeries of a hundred refrigerated

bodies of young boys living on the streets in Chocó.

Dodging military beatings led them mapping

every avenue, alley and corner, until the pandemic

caught up with them in a cumbia filled bar, as panhandlers


trim the edges of every invisible bouncer panhandling

for an extra visa, and an extra ticket on a boat with no scars

only to find the coast of Congo, the beginnings of the pandemic?

If this is truth, then let us all be liars with refrigerated

tongues and frozen eyes to blind the borders in maps

made to separate nations by color and cities, like Chocó,


cry for the day Chocó’s citizens can say, “No panhandling

is needed; no belly is mapped with stitched scars

from internal bleedings refrigerated during this pandemic.”  


Marilyn Monroe on the Night of August 4, 1962


I found my window panels opened,

flapping white curtains in the air;


I turned around, running across my bedroom

looking for my pills, for a drink


to dismember the blonde toy in front of me,

who once loved the boys of Camelot,


who gave them everything, photo shoots

across red diaries, as they write her stories;


write about this paper doll, that bends over

vents, over counters topped with magazines,


but only red petals can tell the tears

that drain her sink after every drink ran out,


after the filming is over, and curtains are cut

into square pieces, who am I again?


Who am I again, but a disfigured orphaned;

blonde toy to play with, or if you move my arms


you can make me clap, even give the pageant wave

to our president, let him know how good he is.


Or when you move my legs, open them wide enough,

make me catwalk down fifth avenue,


raise my skirt up to my knees, as scars in the night

will glare my memories, red with docile dreams.


On every trip down cobblestone streets,

I meet that blonde paper doll with stiletto heels,


torturing her back for a man? a movie?

Her lips controlled by them,


and if you squeeze her cheeks tight enough,

move her mouth— I can tell you her truth.