Today's poem is by David Tomas Martinez


Nothing is more nomadic than names,

especially handles given by friends: Slim
because we are thin or because of a haircut, Skullet.

And who knows us less than parents,
givers of our government names—

when my father's tongue axed the air,
my pants fell down from the roar of his belt.

And so, Sundays become shibboleths,

and I watch football,
with three friends disloyal to the town—

a town, that sober or drunk, would put a foot to their throat—

and after a commercial where a boy at school runs
from his parents, fogies wearing spangled pants and mullets,
I ask my friends if they would shy from their father.

Silence makes us explain ourselves.

Before I finish bottling my question,
they wish.

They wish the motherfucker
was there—in a thong, a tutu, in more makeup than RuPaul,
picking them up from school, as long as they knew him.
And I know these three men are lying,
each of us sitting one cushion removed on the couch.

Just because you and your dad share the same name
and you live under his protective hand,
doesn't mean it protects,

when the only time he picks you up from school,
the locks open in gossip
when he chases you through the halls,

through the football field,
and into a canyon.

Bushes can be the warmest blanket.

Is there a way to explain over football and beer,
your father's childhood was a contortionist's dream.

When the radio station signed off,
grandfather kept drinking mescal and singing.

When the bottle swallowed his tongue,

like the small segmented worm our tongues are,
the man spoke the language he knew well,

spelled what his illiterate fist could form.
The letters passed from generation to generation;

a nepotism from fathers, from mothers:
violence is the oldest inheritance:

Given for the first lie, the first blow, the first scam in a back seat,
the first laugh, the first time you are left alone and crying,
the first to say I told you so, the first man to fall charging the hill.

Because it is the test of words and not the word that endures,
because the moon toils toward the forever foot print

the bible should be revised and the list
of who begot whom should include Neil Armstrong.

And homegirls, you should know,
before an alpha, before the first word or a god
there was a riot of silence to be banded and named.

Every person, animal, and willow should waver in a whisper
is not in the bible, but it should be.

It should be, because, homeboy,
you came home and your mother was in the kitchen
cooking and the records spun on their axis
and your life was a flower to dance around her

or your mother was on the couch drunk,
stumbling to get up off her slur,
and your life was a flower to dance around her,

taunting her to fill the silence with a name, any name.

Copyright © 2014 David Tomas Martinez All rights reserved
from Hustle
Sarabande Books
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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