Today's poem is by Dionisio D. Martínez

Once a Man

Once a man, always a man. The measure of a man. A shadow of the
measure. This man, a father, is hibiscus, grand oak, eucalyptus root. This

man, a soldier, is palm frond and sugar pine and cedar. This one sprouts
the unexpected branches that will be our shelter. Transmigration is

good for the soil—the pasture all rot and renewal and crooked trees with
tiny pears that (by their own admission) would rather grow upwind from

the world's incentives. These men have heard eternity's a cinch, but you
have to walk without disturbing this quilt of poppies and forget-me-

nots before you understand that, even here, there's only so much room
for the restless—ivy, kudzu, wandering jew. Tough to believe in the end

when obstacles have the courtesy to step aside. This wall. This gate. This
useless row of fenceposts—each of them a man who thought he was

alone, unencumbered by the hiss and the hum of things almost grinding to
a halt, things bluffing and no one calling them on it; each post a man who

turned down offers from Narcissus himself; each man declined because
he would not bow to the drowned, unsettled face looking up at him—two

targets equidistant from the surface. Such a steadfast march toward the
unforseen: lacking water, he reconstructs himself in the sheen of the bent

grass—closing parenthesis, reminder of the open/empty clause, chronic
pain and stance of one who prays to the patron saint of best intentions.

Copyright © 2005 Dionisio D. Martínez All rights reserved
from Quarterly West
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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