GUESTBOOK 89: “This One and Only Time” (by John Martinez)

John M

For my Father Victor Verdugo Martinez (1927 – 2007)


While the clouds bunched and bruised grey

Over that Spanish bar in Mazatlan Mexico, 

We sat in the outdoor patio slamming 

Greyhounds, Patron shots, beer chasers

And while the earth moved at a speed 

Neither one of us could calculate,

We felt that we understood 

The seagulls calling out numbers, 

The horizon pulling in the street,

The block buildings that one-day

Will find their windows

Filled with salt 

It was this first and only time, 

My father was a guy named Victor 

And I, a guy named, John

I was now 44 years old and my face was 

Becoming his face, my eyes sleepy,

My mouth, a pucker of spider wrinkles, 

Cobwebs protruding from my nose,

My sideburns, sandy and curled,

I was becoming my father

And as the sun stretched a dark yolk 

Into that green and blue ocean, 

We spoke of neckties, button down collars,

How we both stared deep 

Into a ceiling of worry, 

A tackle box of bills,

Of our wives, their jealous eyes,

We agreed that our love for them 

Was long, worn and perfect,

That there was nothing greater 

Than their belief in us, 

Nothing more profound

Than the names changed, 

The blood we shared

I named my boy after him,

After his boy, Victor

And for the first time, we spoke of God

In our opened palms, of La Llorona

Muddy, in the half filled ditch of Fresno

Near the dying Oak, where I ran about shirtless,

“Como un Indio” he said,

Taking a shot, a wincing munch of lemon

Victor Martinez planted flowers 

Around a project home, 

Shot squirrels in the field from his doorstep,

Had 12 children, five girls, seven boys, 

Drove a Pontiac Grand Prix, 

Drove a cantaloupe bus, 

Impressed the girls with his Gachupine looks 

And soon, he was smart in his leisure suit, 

Hair slicked back, like a Chicano 

Dean Martin behind a steel desk,

The smell of coffee 

Meant that he was going

To do his time

So the evening wound down to 

A spinning of empty shot glasses, 

Drunk, he smacks out my name

To a Waiter; 

“John would like another drink,” 

“Man these drinks got me wanting to hurl, Victor,”

I said to him, turning pale, plump lips, 

Going round and round 

And for the first time,

As the weakened light settled 

Into cut shadow at his feet, 

I can sense that we were far,

Far away, like the orange sun sinking into the ocean,

Far from home, where he is my Father,

Crunched in his silent sofa, 

But this time, this first and only time

He was a guy named, Victor

And I, a guy named, John

And we were friends

For that day


(© John Martinez, 2012)


John Martinez writes poetry. Sometimes, he gets one right. He studied poetry at Fresno State University…attending Advance Poetry Writing with Philip Levine for four years. He also took a class in Bone-Head English. For the last 15 years he has worked as an Administrator for a well known Law Firm in Los Angeles. Before this he was an investigator and before that… well, he was homeless.Mr. Martinez believes in a lot of things, but mainly John believes in the power of being human; that spirits rise from being human and NOT the other way around. John believes in God. He would like his poetry to be read by as many people as possible, but on the other hand, he would like, one day, to understand his own poems and why he must write them. (Karl adds that he is a rippin’ guitar player!)


About KPKeelan

Fool, Philosopher, Lover & Dreamer, Benign TROUBLEMAKER, King and Jester of KPKworld, an online portal to visual and linguistic mystery, befuddlement and delight.
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