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.
“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