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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.

David Tomas Martinez

David Tomas Martinez

David Tomas Martinez is the author of Post Traumatic Hood Disorder (Sarabande Books, 2018), Crosshatched (Sarabande Books, 2016), and Hustle (Sarabande Books, 2014). A recipient of a Pushcart Prize, Martinez has received fellowships from CantoMundo and the National Endowment for the Arts.  He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

by this poet

poem

I must
          not succeed.

                      Success is the mind-killer.

Success
           is the little-death
           that brings total

obliteration. I will face

                                 my success. I will

permit it to pass

2
poem

A honey badger’s skin can
withstand multiple blows
from machetes, arrows,
and spears, but these rusted
weapons haven’t killed
anything in years, so that may
be the lesson there, that
there is no there there, like
many poems, like many
revolutions, and maybe there

2
poem

1.

It's not water to wine to swallow harm,
though many of us have,

and changing the name
of Ozark Street to Willie Jones Street,
won't resuscitate,

won't expose how the sun roars across rows of faces
at the funeral for a seventeen-year-old-boy,

won't stop the double