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David Tomas Martinez
David Tomas Martinez

An Alluded to Letter from DTM for Matthew Olzmann

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 23, 2018
About this Poem 

“This poem is the result of conversations between Vievee, Matthew, and myself, concerning how to maintain integrity and veracity within a world where rhetoric, performance, and untruth seem unfettered. How does one dog-paddle the self within a system? When the predominant set of ideals don't reflect who you are, how do you sustain love for yourself?”
David Tomas Martinez

An Alluded to Letter from DTM for Matthew Olzmann

and Vievee Francis concerning love, redemption,
            and the TV show Empire
 	    might not be the most august
of openings, but like hypocrisy in this great falling  	
 	    hegemony, it’s all I got.
 
                     Besides, what’s history but
a conversation we’re born into without context,
 
and what is society but three friends who keep dipping
to the DM’s from a group text. Oh, America, where its
most valid
 
 	    ID states, I am Erica, in glittery pink
hearts, the hologram hinting at the fact that this card holder
 	    has a dogmatic Top Forty devotion,
only eats organic granola, and raises strays humanely.
 
It’s easy to be angry when the constitution starts for some,
We the People, and begins for others, Well see, you people.
Some can’t start a sentence without To be fair.
                    	     	
   	                This is where, if I were a white poet, I’d be ironic,
        especially if I had, in the Stevens’
   	vernacular, a mind of winter,
which is a generous manner of saying said poet’s
                                emotionally snowed in.
 
It’s still socially unacceptable in my community
to admit predispositions toward depression.
In part because we think sadness is bougie. I sure
as pig believed
  	                that I was too broke to be
depressed. Machismo culture means, Matthew,
that we never needed any other emotion than
 
power, anything but anger was middling, that
I never had the courage to be anything but
                         mean, to say, hey friend, I see your achievement. Hey friend,
I see your achievement. Hyperbole shades in
 
what we are afraid to say. In my experience,
when someone’s really feeling you, they’ll ask,
You got some black in you,
 
don’t lie. Beautiful black women, ask me again what I am,
touch my hair once more, tell me it must be the Indians
in me. Tell me otra vez, while holding my ears, while
I look up at you, no tienes labios pero tus besos
 
             son como azúcar. Beautiful black women,
we’ve built so many types of pyramids. I can love you,
and dis
 
                        like the rhetoric.
 If you say you don’t smell beach-y, oceanic,
 a wave breaking obsequiously, then you don’t. Skin
 
       	     can’t be the night, too
filled with a lonely white consciousness.
 
   	                  We up in church yet, Vievee?
The dog and pony show of white tears makes some of us
 pretty pet-able. And here is where if I were a white poet
     	     I’d say black women are saving the world.
 
        	          Some of the poorest poets swear
by their Kraft. A politics. Perfection, beauty were never white
	    	                                    aesthetics. Despite this, pimps
 put white girls out during the day, black girls at night.
 
 	                  Rachel Dolezal went on the nightly news and
televised us with falsehoods, darkened us all, but she probably
understood Louis Simpson best, who said every
aesthetic statement is a defense of one’s own,
 
so when I say I love you, what I mean is I love what
I am, but especially, maybe more so,
what I’ve never been.

Copyright © 2018 by David Tomas Martinez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by David Tomas Martinez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

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collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

poem

Ghazal: America the Beautiful

Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
in first grade when we learned to sing America

The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
and say the Pledge of Allegiance to America

We put our hands over our first grade hearts
we felt proud to be citizens of America

I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
maybe I was right about America

School days school days dear old Golden Rule Days
when we learned how to behave in America

What to wear, how to smoke, how to despise our parents
who didn’t understand us or America

Only later learning the Banner and the Beautiful
live on opposite sides of the street in America

Only later discovering the Nation is divisible
by money by power by color by gender by sex America

We comprehend it now this land is two lands
one triumphant bully one still hopeful America

Imagining amber waves of grain blowing in the wind
purple mountains and no homeless in America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
somehow or other still carried away by America

Alicia Ostriker
2016
poem

The House at Long Lake

How a house is a self
     & else, a seeping into
of light deciding the day.
     A house so close

it breathes as the lake
     breathes. How a lake
is a shelf, an eye,
     a species of seeing,

burbling of tongues
     completing the shore.
How a loon is a probing,
     a genus of dreams,

encyclopedia of summer.
     Unsummable house
by the lake, generous hinge
     opening us. I loved,

in folds of sleep, to hear
     the back door’s yawn
& click. You gliding
     down toward shore

& dawn, beyond all frames,
     reconciling yourself to
bracing Long Lake.
     Into its ever-opening, you—

Philip Metres
2018
Homestead National Monument. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
poem

Summer Silence

Eruptive lightnings flutter to and fro
Above the heights of immemorial hills;
Thirst-stricken air, dumb-throated, in its woe
Limply down-sagging, its limp body spills
Upon the earth. A panting silence fills
The empty vault of Night with shimmering bars
Of sullen silver, where the lake distils
Its misered bounty.—Hark! No whisper mars
The utter silence of the untranslated stars.

E. E. Cummings
2017
poem

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

Besides, 
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.
Langston Hughes
1994
collection

Teach This Poem: The Classics

Teach This Poem is a weekly series featuring a poem from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help K-12 teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom. The following lesson plans from this series feature poems by classic poets, including Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and more.

 

collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

Spring–Summer 2018 issue of American Poets
poem

America, I Sing Back

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
2016