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David Tomas Martinez



Don’t be a pussy

                        they said

Suck it up

                   they told me

Like a man

                 they repeated


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

suck it.



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.





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

house broken,


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.

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