Published on Academy of American Poets (

Thought Poem for Victor Martinez (Undelivered)

You said:

What you wrote (at this moment—here)
was being written by someone somewhere else
at the same time (this is the question) some
country some town on stilts—in a broken
concentration bus or a polished make-believe desk
a cheap jungled-up clinic an empty one no supplies
for the sickly aged children deep

in the
rain soaked burnt tree forest slapped together hut
smoked with holiness with festered branches
and malaria strings just maybe a promotor school
that short snout bus that takes us to a new arrangement
you said that

would you be writing that there
would you be living that there
why would you care to write that there in that
in that message without a message that
hunger known as life stuff where every damp speckle
and mud twig is the shout mouth hunger and that fulfillment
i do not know—
knowledge let us call it that right now
what else

could it be could it be that this gut water
inside burning its alphabet incomplete
calling for something you and i have
bread is it bread is it ink is it simply placement
the empty yellowing floor office

across from my 15th floor
as I tiptoe into the edge of it all tomorrow
i read at the university i stand up and read
someone else is standing up and reading
someone else is tiptoeing in a circle a palaver
a crossing station in Talisman en route to
Guatemala halted halfway by soldados a variety
a synonym where life splits and fissions
mind sequence pattern—reproduction silence

you move your arm and put
letters down on paper you move your lips
as you (but you are not here—are you—anymore)

spell it as you drink it as you breathe it from that
second galaxy (ah yes)
halfway down as I

breathe it up half ways up as she ambles
with an ancient rifle (the kind sold to Indians)
through the shadow greenness mildew heat selva
in that

human landscape spiraling no one knows


Copyright © 2016 by Juan Felipe Herrera. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 15, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“After taking note of Benjamin Boone’s Jazz Quartet here in Fresno, California, where I live, I noticed how fully they gave their life to their music onstage. Nothing bothered them, not a speck of dust. Intensity was the key, total surrender to their art. I followed up with this poem, in a similar pointedness—pouring out, unabashedly, into this particular piece. This poem is a kind of follow-up to the things my great and late friend Victor Martinez would often say—a most deep thinker. A shred of one of his many thoughts is on the back side of his one poetry book, Caring for a House, published in the ’80s in the Bay Area. This back-page thought describes a quantum-like field he called the ‘Super Imagination.’ It always intrigued me—what could it be? How does it function? Perhaps he got this from one of his favorite philosophers, Heidegger. Or is it a Taoist concept? In this poem, I tackle the subject and also the impossible attempt to communicate with his notion—in a ‘third field,’ from mine, to the super-realm in existence, to his, after his death.”
—Juan Felipe Herrera


Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera is the Poet Laureate of the United States. He served on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.

Date Published: 2016-07-15

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