In Their Own Words

David Tomas Martinez's “Shed”

David Thomas Martinz standing with arms crossed


In the wood shed
I found my uncle's magazines.

Snooping out of boredom,
looking for a wrench
to loosen a question in my body,

I flipped along glossy women
in kitchens without sinks
and refrigerators without food,
where bored housewives released
frustrations by
fucking the plumber,

where gardeners were pulled into pool houses
by college freshmen, their pig tails
doing most of the raking;
I saw women and horses
and women and circles of men
and women and women.

There seemed to be no shortage of women.

Being eleven with the drain pulled
on my wondered lust, my eyes
began to see sex everywhere,

in the plunging of stopped toilets,
in gas tanks being filled, in the pool halls
where my father circled his cue.

How the world moaned and pumped,
and hope flashed fluorescently through the blinds.

I lost my virginity three years later
to a girl without a name,
a neighbor in my curiosity about the body.

Before we did it, she said,
I don't make sounds during sex

and she didn't, just waited blankly,
waited to have emotion scribbled on her.

Eventually, love marked me
with a woman who walked with tumultuous hips—
she made bathrooms and classrooms more exciting,

and proved old Walt right— the body does
electric— when a kiss jumps the body—

as love is the leap of moment suspended
between jumping and landing, learning
and knowing, quitting and starting again

and it hurts more than just in skin
to walk because your walked away from,
and no hurt scatters, no love vanishes,
and no sorrow dissipates or forgives,
and no words can be eaten.
Nothing can be eaten.

And her climbing up a balcony on the second
floor to break in through the sliding glass door
to leave, on a puffed pillow, music she made for you

wont screw back together what was shed.
No one wants to leave the comfort of wood,
or finally say goodnight. I wish the world
had left me cuddled with boxes and magazines,

with boxed wine and videos of Vegas.
Can another cigarette break keep
the shell of sleep from cracking,

stay the flashes of her bent under another man?
Wondering if she is across the country, or the street,
how can I stop her monuments, not hear her again?

From Hustle (Sarabande Books, 2014). Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Introduction by Christopher Soto

Hustle by David Tomas Martinez is raw and unpretentious. This debut collection of poems speaks of the realities lived by so many young latin@s (such as myself) who have been waiting to see their lives more accurately portrayed. In Hustle, Martinez uses the summer of '94 as a backdrop to discuss the intersections of latinidad, masculinity, sex, love, family, violence, gang life, and more. This debut collection is a ray of California sun- it warms you, then it burns.

David Tomas Martinez on "Shed"

Like the title suggests, "Shed" is a poem about transitions: childhood / adolescence / teenager / adulthood, innocence / experience, interiority / exteriority, virginity / sexual awareness, play / work, relationship / break up, remembering / forgetting—I wanted a restless poem shifting in syntax and form, not caught in a particular mode, but like a virus, moving in drifts and shifts.

Like many of my poems, which are based in my own personal history, this poem relies heavily on my experience, though I filter it through a language of poetry. "Shed" is based particularly on two consecutive romantic relationships that were very difficult, both which I have conflated into a four-year period that I associate with an emotionally destructive time. Many of my life choices were self-destructive and made me vulnerable, though I protected myself in love by remaining emotionally detached. Joining a gang, having a child as a teenager, not graduating high school, and purposely getting kicked out of the Navy were decisions that shaped my life during formative years. I still can protect myself by remaining emotionally detached, though not romantically anymore. Unfortunately, I still need a garrison. Sometimes from myself.

Then I could just be an asshole. I still can be an asshole. I apologize. Not that it matters until I show you my Sears, my softer side.

This behavior has not completely dissipated, but I am aware of it, and though I struggle with still wanting to burn down the house while I am in it, I am actively trying to entertain positive behaviors and choices. At least I no longer dream of matches.

Love is often not beautiful. It can be. It should be. It is not always. I want it to be.

My conversations move in drifts and shifts, so naturally my poems often will. I find when I am most associative, I make interesting poems, but I am not sure if that is a critique of my generation, of myself, of our lack of precision, of focus and skill, or are we truly breaking from the racial / gender / sexuality / class biases of earlier generations. Are we using the master's tools? Or are we simply poets that have seen the best minds of our generation destroyed by MTV, starved by GMO's? I believe both are true.

I am tragically unromantic in some of my views. Friends (with benefits), remember we're always in a state of transition, our views are no more then the angle of the Rubik's Cube we see, which is why I have grown cautious of how I feel. This probably means I'm a liar, but you can trust me when I say that I am the most honest liar you know. And now that we've reestablished trust, please believe that "Shed" was based on my most recent relationship as well, which was different than the two prior relationships mentioned, while also being the same, just repackaged. My love version of 2.0. They were like ships, related, quick to shun, all passing in the night. (I am not beyond puns.) (Nor beyond fudging my number). (I used to have sex behind a church). This is all to say that my poem is about it all. And about nothing. About love and about my relationship with you. Hypocrite lecteur mon semblabe. Which is to say that I loved my loves without knowing how.

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