J. Michael Martinez


After Araki Yasusada’s “Dream and Charcoal”

And she said: does darkness list our erasures and become beautiful?

And she said: those I love, I translate into advent and wild foxgrape,
                  the blind staggers of water.

And then she said: the dead will return, narrow gates unlatched.

To which she replied: his body is air written between my hands.

Which is when she carved an arrow upon linden, leaf & chaff.

Which is when the butterflies hatched from her footprint.

Which was how she cut her fingers with seaweed and bitter jewel.

Which was when our martyr became the hour of unsung reeds.








Adam's Confession to Eve

Always day. Begin in negative grace. Copper light humming. Corn husked. The outlines Of a broader childhood. Beyond mortality what seeds flowers. Turns opalescent.

Towers. In our black habit. To breed memory with understanding. In my love fields rush.
To leaf. Ruins of stamen. Coalesce confession. Our lips glass. In fire. Unsounded threshing.


Child I am. Say now. The mother’s hair. Say silt. Say locks unlocked. Say the hair black. Air broadening. Say the air. Apprentice the rooster. Herald ashlight.

Child you are. Listen fluency & name it. God counting lots. Til winter’s field builds its strange white. Altar inside you. & The day seals you. Childhood bore. Through ransoms of blood.


Unspoken waters. Spill the fountain. Lilac’s tendril roots. Pulled by the vestal.
Of their vow. Broken names line. Like supplicants. The virgin’s watermark. Before before.

There are distances. Love. I must cross the linings. In other’s dreams the black boundary. Erupts unwilled.
Child the dust. Stains my listening. A dove coos in the stomach. You finish every echo. Praising.








Rodin to the Danaid


                  Sweet daughter,
                  raw        the marrow-rose:

                  your marble
piles gored like quail:
                                 mouth your erosion,
jaws retain in claw
                  a prince of water—scorn spent,

                                 your torn organs
                                 grown rich in his vast will.



Rags flood breath—
all gold less
                  than her hand—a verdin
building temples, passed as fable.

Come here, act:
                  my pet, grace torn pale,
perish my lungs: so wingless from leaves
                                 graved in tumors
                                                                      of her arrival.



Tensed, treason speak broken acts:
                  myths silencing the tongue,
                                 strength grasping shade
                                 with hands unwound

Unsay water,
                  silt of my breathing; mold
                  through cadence;
                                 law braids dew,
                                                algae, guilt.







after Peter Callesen’sWedding Dress Without Bride, 2005
Acid free A4 80 paper and glue

love is this into                           white

armless and hollow

a woman vowless

stitched in her own I do, I do


feral branches lope

over promise

a calf dressed in buskins
is slaughtered        the safekeeping

              of the any who
              enter her


is this most bodyless longing
struggling for mend & bloom

                            to string

                            itself into

                            that please of wait


but a dress

               whose rupture

              is proper essence

not the world—
that unspoken if


and would she, if she were,

translate her skin to know
this wild

              yetness of sky

and would she,
if not the world,

but a dress

                            translate if
to I do, I do
                            in hollow bloom?




- - - - - -

J. Michael Martinez´s writings have appeared in Puerto Del Sol, New American Writing, on NPR, and in The Denver Post. He is the recipient of the 2006 Five Fingers Review Poetry Prize and his collection Heredities was selected by Juan Felipe Herrera for the Academy of American Poets' Walt Whitman Award, and will be published by Louisiana State University Press in 2010.





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