Our poetry editor, Joe Pan, has selected a poem by David Tomas Martinez for his series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

Ono, Yoko

Yoko Ono, “Half-A-Room” (detail) (1967), various objects cut in half, most painted white, installation dimensions variable (Private collection, © Yoko Ono 2014)

*    *    *


I’m still unsure why the phrase is breakup,

when breakdown
makes language and experience more intimate,

which really isn’t the purpose of language,
nor a relationship, though we’re instructed so
by dusty books and dustier

denizens of dead religions and lost languages,
and what is love but a tongue taught
to us by our grandmothers,

brought to us from their shores, echoed from
shells they prayed into as girls
as they watched sail

their love, their fortune. Our eyes have lost their luck,
my friends. We are not lent a tenth life. Only single people
need pets. And children.

See the similarity? Notice what we have
been made. And unmade,
laid alone in the sun, called an albatross. My life was alive.

She was a knot. For many of us, to get anything of life
we must forget. But we cannot forget
our fathers’ straw sayings, their broken camel backs,

their sparrow winged shoulders straightened
from saying nothing. I am a man,
said silence. I only break
my lips to lecture

on elbow patches. I am not even.
My haircut is asymmetrical. Call me Friday.
I’ll call you Ishmael. I wear anchors
and pig skin. My diet
is crab
and butterfly. You smile.
I sigh.

My style
is my only emotion. My arms remind you
to sketch me alone, draw and quarter me home, though
I sit on a plane, shifting in my seat, wanting to take my shoes off,
and try and talk to the person sitting next to me.
I am constantly trying to talk to the person next to me.

Usually the person next to me is someone I love.

Normally I wont know them.
Always more and never less but fewer moments snuck alone in Brooklyn.
Mal de mar.

Shoes of mediocre quality will never date.

Those who look for hooks of love,
kissing wolves, search for pairs
of socks by making puppets,

forging rings, waving trembling
to themselves
will stay unstitched.

*    *    *

David Tomas Martinez’s debut collection of poetry, Hustle, was released in 2014 by Sarabande Books, winning 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. Features or reviews have appeared in Poets & Writers, Publishers Weekly, NPR’s All Things ConsideredNBC Latino, Buzzfeed, and many others. He is the reviews and interviews editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. He has been a Breadloaf and CantoMundo Fellow, and is finishing his PhD in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing program. Martinez is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of creative writing at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX.

Joe Pan grew up along the Space Coast of Florida and attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His debut poetry book, Autobiomythography & Gallery, was named “Best First Book of the Year” by Coldfront...