"David Martinez is like an algebra problem invented by Americahe's polynomial, and fractioned, full of identity variables and unsolved narrative coefficients. . . . Hustle is full of dashing nerve, linguistic flair, and unfakeable heart."Tony Hoagland
The dark peoples with things:
for keys, coins, pencils
and pens our pockets grieve.
No street lights or signs,
no liquor stores or bars,
only a lighter for a flashlight,
and the same-faced trees,
and crooked bushes
staring back at me.
There is no path in the woods for a boy from the city.
I would have set fire to get off this wilderness
but Palomar is no El Camino in an empty lot,
the plastic dripping from the dash
and the paint bubbling like a toad's throat.
If mountains were old pieces of furniture,
I would have lit the fabric and danced.
If mountains were abandoned crack houses,
I would have opened their meanings with flame,
if that would have let the wind and trees lead my eyes
or shown me the moon's tiptoe on the moss
as you effect my hand,
as we walk into the side of a Sunday night.
David Tomas Martinez has published in San Diego Writer's Ink, Charlotte Journal, Poetry International, and has been featured in Border Voices. A PhD candidate at the University of Houston, Martinez is also an editor for Gulf Coast.
"Memory is a fist to the eye" in Martinez's debut collection, which depicts a family where "violence is the oldest inheritance," and a coming-of-age in which the speaker "died/ into silent manhood/ spoke in the twist/ of fingers to gang signs." From an alcoholic grandfather and a father for whom "life was work. For him, everything was hard," the speaker remembers himself as a boy who "dreamed of sleeping/ perfectly still / a macho's rest;/ muggers, murderers, and fathers," and a teenager who "wanted so badly to go to prison/ wanted my stripes and the respect of teens." Questions of masculinity and power run throughout, and the poems feel simultaneously intimate and spectacular as the voice strikes registers of vulnerability and bravado. For all the narratives of strife the collection contains, Martinez's poetics are anything but grim. Rather, there is a delight in language play and a lexicon that spans slang to theory. From the remove of poetry, Martinez brings clarity to the chaotic world of his youth, observing "before an alpha, before the first word or a god/ there was a riot of silence to be banded and named," and brings urgency to the language, asking, "Where is the window to break/ in your life?"