from Forgetting Willie James Jones

David Tomas Martinez

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 slapping
of the screen door against a frame,
causing a grandmother, by habit, to yell out, Willie.

It can't deafen the trophies in a dead teenager's room.
That day in '94 I felt strong.

I walked down the street with nickel bags of weed
in the belt loops of my Dickies,

and a bandana strung from my pocket.

That's when I thought trouble could be run from,
could be avoided by never sitting
with your back to the door
or near a window.

I swore by long days and strutted along a rusted past,
shook dice and smoked with the boys

that posted on the corners:
and men cruising in coupes, men built so big
they took up both seats,
I rode with them that summer.

That was the season death walked alongside us all,
wagging its haunches and twisting its collared neck
at a bird glittering along a branch.

Willie was shot in that heat,
with a stolen pistol,
in the front yard of a party.

It poked a hole
no bigger than a pebble
in his body.

The shooters came from my high school:
we sometimes smoked in the bungalow
bathrooms during lunch.

A few weeks before Willie got shot,
Maurice had been killed—

An awning after rain,
Maurice and Willie
sagged from the weight.

Some say it is better
to be carried by six
than judged by twelve.

Some say the summer of '94
in Southeast San Diego
was just another summer.

More by David Tomas Martinez

A Kiss

And sometimes it is
loss

                                                       that we lose,

          and sometimes

it is just lips. When I was


                           a child, I would ask my mother
to tuck me

                             in, wrap me tight in blankets,

            make me into a burrito.


                           Sometimes I would wait in bed,

pressing my body stiff, like a board,

mind like a feather, silly— setting the scene

                        

                        to be seen.

                                          So I could be wrapped.

                                              So I could be kissed.


And what

                                  I miss most,


is being            made                                 again.

Prayer

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

                       over me and through

me. And when it has
                       gone
                                                past, I will

turn the inner

                      to see

its path. Where

the success has        gone there will be

nothing.
                      Only I will remain. 

The/A Train

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
isn’t a there there in many
people only that foggy
anachronistic lizard eye,
or what I have come to call
the part of consciousness that
builds impediments, isolates,
the “supertrump.” Or
what New Yorkers call
subways. Or what a King
calls a dream. Or what X
called Y. What the crowd
yells as lit, The Cave calls dim.
What they deem in West
Tejas as a fancy evening out
is rocking on the porch,
aint they good at irony,
where watching the fugitive
moon runaway takes days,
like the time I caught the C
I hoped was an A, and saw a
butterfly move in what I can
only say is protest. The wings
made small combustions
through the car. Eyes trained.
The awful is tracked by
awe. An officer lifts his
gun, yells to raise your hands
higher the TV flutters.
Watch it. They will
call you moth and kill you.