about the author

Marty Williams is a working writer living in both Oakland, California, and on Kenai Lake in Alaska, where her family has had a cabin for more than fifty years. She received an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco, where she studied with Jack Gilbert and August Kleinzahler. Her work has been published in Digital Paper, Liberty Hill Review, Ruah, Survivor’s Quarterly, Western Journal of Medicine, and Wild Earth, as well as in the anthology Bearing Witness: Poetry by Teachers about Teaching. She has also published several chapbooks.

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Delegados Ceros

Marty Williams

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You are as frail as a finch, little man in your put together outfits,
always black with pieces of something else stitched on by hand.

The Mohawk, so startling in January, is growing out now,
a thick hedge rising out of black curls.

You are our own special Bay Area Androgyne,
Sub-Commandante Marcos in the high school atrium.

Silver jewelry flashes, piercings in your ear and tongue,
the pronged collar at the neck.

You are beautiful, Anais Nin in male urban punk Goth Zapata drag,
Diego Rivera’s post-modern sprite.

Every day you bring us a new message from the other side,
this time a crumpled half sheet e-mail from Delegado Cero himself
telling how many the police shot in the janitor’s strike yesterday.

Your teacher tells me you are bitchy and uncooperative during fourth period.
She thinks you are hungry and gives you her lunch. Things get better.

In the cafeteria, on Mother’s Day, you wander the perimeter of the Danza
taking photos of bare feet, trembling feathers, and finally kneel on the
bow your head in the four directions, taking up almost no space at all.

Today, in the library, we listen to Malin read her tale of a wacky quinceañera.
You are folded up in a chair, surrounded by your girlfriends,
black Converse high tops tucked under your thin knees.

It’s a full house, and you try to give me your chair,
but I want to sit here at your feet
which is a little like wanting to take you home
or to breakfast or to Oaxaca,

wanting to somehow explode it all
to find our own pieced together ways to fight,
to bless our tiny humanness, our dark hungers,
these tough hearts we wear inside.

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