Chicago, Illinois

December 2006

Five Poems

The Body as Weapon, As Inspiration
For Anna Akhmatova
These Streets
How to Be Invisible

Poet's Bio



the body as weapon, as inspiration

The body as weapon, as inspiration
when she walks into a Jerusalem market
and explodes herself. Not so much

the explosive force, but the shrapnel
that’s a mother fucker. Yes, it was
shrapnel last year that ripped through her

cousin’s legs and pierced her mother’s
skull. The rest of the family was lucky:
instantly dead under the collapse

of ceiling joists & plywood.
The girl survived—now only a scar
on her forehead, an official apology

from the state, and these few seconds
before the blast. Soon, there will be
a quiet thick enough to touch.

Then a man’s ears will ring
as he falls & weeps. There will be
tiny fragments of bone & glass

embedded into the skin of the undead.
Later, there will be “retaliation”
strikes, missile bombardments,

bulldozers, and there will be a poet
thousands of miles away excited
by the burden of writing this thing.



for anna akhmatova

Far off, a deadly little bell is ringing...

and she’s stuck on her last line.
How to exhume Leningrad and mean it.
Satire & shrapnel allusions unlikely;

nothing of detained friends or lovers.
No mention of 6x8 hollow blocks
where sons & poets rest their heads

against concrete. Perhaps she will
scribble a praise for Stalin.
Or maybe gather enough stone

words to wrap in a piece of cloth,
tie with a ribbon, and hurl at his head.



A doughnut, a dog, a god, a box. Not a shoe box nor a black box. A box no less. Subjects within. Habit or programmed. Do they A) see the box B) hear the box C) taste the box D) explode? There are many boxes all fashioned from the same big box. Actually, it is not a box at all though everyone’s made to believe it is a box. We say box because we don’t have the conceptual tools outside of box. What box? My great big happy box. The people sleep in the box. The people re-produce in the box. The box has come to colonize. Leisure time, work time. We tend to deny the existence of the box. Mr. and Mrs. Box. No longer thinking. The box is typically bound up with the products and technology of mass culture. The box problem. The problem box. Subsume the people into the box as a whole and deny them their distinct boxes. Oh my Box! Erase all desires except those satisfied by the box. Give me one large box, a quarter-pound box with cheese, and a diet box. Denial of conflict of interests inside the box. Don’t even think about opening that box. Don’t even think. The streamlined structure of the box. Of the people. The box and everything inside would collapse if. A box no less; a box, no less; a box, no, less; a, box, no, less; a box no, less; a box; no less, a box; a less, no box; a no box less; less box; a no. Let us pray.



these streets

As tarred badlands, asphalt

           eroded into canyons & tiny ridges,

                      everything gray.

Cough & buckle under

           January cold, August heat. We die here

                      above underworlds of steel

                                 & concrete.

Of rat piss & bloodletting. Ofrenda to the gods

           adorned with yellow tape, pistol

                      slugs, our grandmothers’


A two dimensional galaxy

           of busted glass—stars

                      sharp enough to cut

                                 or flicker.



how to be invisible

Don’t be so damn obvious
she says after shoving a T-bone

down his pants. Express lane
12 items or less & his belly’s numb

& pink from the blood through
the saran. The boy’s scared. Of both

mom & the lady in a smock
who flings buy-one-get-one

non-perishables across the scanner.
He imagines an entire police

squadron waiting outside, ready
to pounce. As they exit, a fist

forms in his pocket tight enough
to squeeze the breath from someone.



Paul Martinez-Pompa rstudied at the University of Chicago and at Indiana University, where he received his M.F.A. in creative writing and served as a poetry editor for the Indiana Review. His chapbook, Pepper Spray, was published by Momotombo Press in 2006. His poetry has also appeared in After Hours: a journal of Chicago writing and art, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and Rhino. Some of his poems will be anthologized in two forthcoming books, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry and Telling Tongues: A Latin@ Anthology on Language Experience. He currently teaches composition and creative writing at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois.