Peaches and Beatings

It’s the season of peaches and
beatings on the beach. A man
and woman lying flat, hands
behind their backs, cuffed
by Police. It’s the season
of hunting: the people are brown,
face down in the sand.
Cooler of soda and beer.
It’s the season of tight-chest, of
Will this ever end, of aching
for my friends. I have a constant
fear of rape. When I was fifteen
we went to Brighton 7.
Janet and Rue wore bikinis,
I wore a polka-dot one piece.
A fight broke out, with thirty
or more. That was the summer
boys were pulling off girl’s tops
chanting, WHOOP THERE IT IS!
It happened everywhere.
On the street, at the beach,
at the Red Hook pool.
We snuck in one night, climbed
the gate after hours. When I saw the man
and woman on the ground,
my whole body asked why.
But it was more like
my lips parting
with no sound.

Leila Ortiz was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Leila is of Puerto Rican, Cuban and Irish descent and works in NYC public schools as a social worker. She is the author of two chapbooks, Girl Life (Recreation League 2016) and A Mouth is Not a Place (dancing girl press 2017).