David Tomas Martinez
Don’t be a pussy
Suck it up
they told me
Like a man
until walk it off, it’s only
a scratch, I’ll give you something
to cry about became a simple
tourniquet. As a toddler,
stitches closed shut my scalp.
I hung from a dog’s mouth,
flaccid as a rooster’s wattle.
I was mauled. Still scarred by
teeth. Like any good secret,
I was carried for only so long.
Eventually after trauma
you’re expected to laugh, build
a birdhouse, collect stamps.
I used to have to get drunk,
watch Twilight or When Harry
Met Sally to cry. A name
contains destiny and history.
My name means beloved
but some things can’t be
loved. Liar, liar teepee
and pants on fire, all my
Yaqui beads traded. Nick
nack paddy wack, dogs
fight over the bone. Weewee,
Piggy cried all the way home.
Memory nips my head. Hush
lil baby. What punctures child
hood quicker than being
bathroomed, whispered to
The late-afternoon light entered
the living room through the barred
windows like a boxer through ropes.
When my mom’s bronze Chevrolet
pulled down the driveway, I hurried
away my toys. She always waved,
never smiled. Funny how my dad
coming home isn’t a memory.
It was not joy when they got home
but relief. With his hand, my dad
warmed beer, and my mom, with
a fork, jabbed defrosted meat.
This was when she started calling
me Champ. At dinner, dad asked
if I wanted the belt. My memory
of those years is punch-drunk.
Her best defense was a good offense.
Like the warming before snow,
mom thawed into pleasantries.
After dinner my father sat on the floor
with his corduroy shorts riding up
his thighs while I put on boxing gloves
around his shadow. I floated, stung.
I rode his shoulders over crowds,
raised my arms. The oversized gloves
on my hands were smaller, lighter
than my want to punch him.
ON DREAMING OF MY WIFE
All love is a form of violence,
a domestic beat
in the heart
as much as the head, a strike to the only
thing we find vital, our safety. But that sounds so
scared, which might mean I am finally
after all these years of really trying,
spent learning to wipe the toilet seat,
open the door, to provide—
I have begun to believe my abuelita,
who believed our bodies were not built to be comfortable
but to comfort others, as our minds
were not made for ideas
but to catalogue groceries. I have been told
that love is giving orders. Last night I dreamt
I was a feudal lord under a red pagoda heating
a kettle of tea with my wife.
Your own heart condemns you, I said with each sip of tea.
I do not condemn you, she said with each sip of tea.
After waking, I felt proud,
having reached a new level of fidelity
because she was actually in my dream.
I looked at her as a Romantic poet looks at trees.
To think in grunts and finger points,
admittedly, is not beyond me.
Neither is groveling. Or regret.
These fighting techniques, I’ve mastered.
Because she was naked and dangled in sleep,
I felt horrible, knew I was,
like it or not, intentional or not, just one man
in a succession of men
who had stopped her from breathing
by kissing her,
by placing my weight atop her,
in the name of protection.
I indicted myself, as you might indict a young couple
arguing in front of a library, neither of them dressed very well
or looking happy because of the summer heat
and books pinned by their elbows,
he pulling her arm, bringing her closer,
twisting her wrist
when her voice ventured a little too loud, a little too far
beyond the yard.
-from Post Traumatic Hood Disorder (Sarabande Books), selected by Spring 2023 Guest Editor, Gerard Robledo
David Tomas Martinez's work has been published or is forth coming in Poetry Magazine, Plough Shares, Tin House, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Oxford American, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Forklift; Ohio, Poetry International, LitHub, Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, Hypoallergic, Lumina Journal, The Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Academy of American Poet's Poem-A-Day, Poetry Foundation's PoetryNow, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Spork Press, Split This Rock, RHINO, Ampersand Review, Caldera Review, Verse Junkies, California Journal of Poetics, Toe Good, and others. DTM has been featured or written about in Poets & Writers, Publishers Weekly, NPR's All Things Considered, NBC Latino, Buzzfeed, Houstonia Magazine, Houston Art & Culture, Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Bull City Press, Border Voices, and many others. Martinez has an MFA from San Diego State University, is the former reviews and interviews editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts, and has been a Breadloaf and CantoMundo Fellow. His debut collection of poetry, Hustle, was released in 2014 by Sarabande Books, which won the New England Book Festival's prize in poetry, the Devil's Kitchen Reading Award, and honorable mention in the Antonio Cisneros Del Moral prize. He is the 2015 winner of the Verlaine Poetry Prize from Inprint. Martinez's second selection of poetry, Post Traumatic Hood Disorder, was published in 2018 by Sarabande Books. He is a Pushcart Prize winner, NEA recipient, and currently lives in Brooklyn.