Published on Academy of American Poets (

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.


Copyright © 2016 by David Tomas Martinez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 16, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This is protest. Repeatedly brown and black bodies are being brutalized in our country. In this case, the shooting of a compliant Charles Kinsey by North Miami police. His hands were empty and raised. According to reports, when Kinsey asked the officer why he shot him, the officer replied, ‘I don’t know.’”
—David Tomas Martinez


David Tomas Martinez

David Tomas Martinez received his MFA from San Diego State University. He is the author of Post Traumatic Hood Disorder (Sarabande Books, 2018) and Hustle (Sarabande Books, 2014), winner of the Devil's Kitchen Poetry Reading Award. A recipient of a Pushcart Prize and the Verlaine Poetry Prize, Martinez has received fellowships from CantoMundo, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was the Guest Editor for Poem-a-Day for Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 14–October 13, 2020, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Date Published: 2016-09-16

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