The Wake of Maria de Jesus Martinez
Disbudded chrysanthemum florets ring her casket: oak laid, my grandmother’s arms cross; gilded gold, her bold button’d suit lays black against white satin; oak grieved, her daughter kneels tear-pearled & sorrow sung: tear-pearled & sorrow sung: the furnaces hunger within my mother’s cry, love mother’d what love must hate— the gasping erasure be her fore her cut be/fore away: be/fore away: Maria Jesus grin sly beneath her waist-long silver hair, cigarette thin in her slender hand, she glances outside the frame into image’s inevitable collapse; or, with what paper-soft collapse; or, with what paper-soft steeple’d hands, she leads me to dream in fatherlessness: some men wear every organ a throne: I wear my grandmother’s hearse, a shell gasping black burdened by body. I mean to say I am hiding, I mean I am holding her rosary: as pale oval as her rosary: as pale oval as peppermint candies half-sucked & sugar sweet bone-blanched, slick with the extended definition of some distant steeple’d faith: as pale oval as steeple’d faith: as pale oval as death bound her hands a rose-nest of mood & form unbridled from within. unbridled from within. a ceaseless cancer ate her silence &, now, four mourner rows stand before my fugitive eyes: & I agree to conduct I agree to conduct her a dollhouse sermon of plastic-pink comfort flowers. Comfort flowers a sermon of plastic comfort pinking. & I said, Death matron’d my mother of her mother matron: a three year slice of night falling & what patient blackrot shook her lung black. Her lung black, I said, I know why the lamb white wooed the lion: to uplift the last of all letters, all the ardor pure. God-make, make god my unconscious soon born sober sunburn. Soon, you cry, I too soon cry, soon—to—soon each other’s soon, sung for each’s soon. For each’s soon, I said, my mother knelt & cried, I said, There is only the fall: like leaves grasping, we are each’s first sketch. The shoots bud upon the branch & I say, I think we are loved. & I know we are loved. For each’s soon, I said, You held for each’s soon.
“Wake of Maria De Jesus Martinez” from MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAS by J. Michael
Copyright © 2018 by J. Michael Martinez.
Used by permission of Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
All rights reserved.
Longlisted for the National Book Award, selected for the National Poetry Series and a recipient of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, J. Michael Martinez is the author of three collections of poetry. He is a Poetry Editor of Noemi Press and his writings have been anthologized in Ahsahta Press’ The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral, Rescue Press’ The New Census: 40 American Poets, and Counterpath Press’ Angels of the Americlypse: New Latin@ Writing. Visiting Assistant Professor of Poetry at St. Lawrence University, J. Michael lives in upstate NY.
More at www.jmichaelmartinez.org
Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry
"Diorama-like, this book displays what has been, in American culture, displayed, and thereby displaced. It is at once a natural history of American racism and colonialism, utterly devastating in its cumulative impact, and a gorgeous mash-up of genres and forms: bold, light, and ruthlessly smart."
—Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker, "The Poetry I was Grateful for in 2018"
“Masterful . . . Martinez’s poems are dynamic personal doxologies of Mexican-American tradition and inheritance . . . Ambitious and historical, Martinez’s book earns praise.”
—Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions
“This is a fascinating, layered collection of poetry that blurs genre in some really interesting ways. Martinez offers, as the title suggests, a museum of the Americas, and especially engages with Mexican migration and its effect on the body. Given the goings on of the world, this poetry is especially timely. Every piece in this book offers something beautiful or haunting or illuminating; every thought, every word, every image is precisely rendered.”