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poetry by j matthew waters

mountain pass


looking west there stands
nearly insurmountable rock
not geometric like pyramids
but geologic like the very deities
that once formed them

mysterious like oceans
neither height nor depth matters
to sleeping giants
giving refuge to time travelers
desperate for a fresh start

on the other side the view
unveils unforeseen majesty
turning the world inside out
and mysteriously removing
anything worth dying for



december two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

blackbird wings


yesterday the summer breeze
always hung around
like little birds hiding in the trees
conspiring to make your day

everything tasted refreshing
an apple or an orange
a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade
a beer
a bloody mary
potato salad
tuna salad
an ice cream sandwich
or malted milkshake

the breeze was perfect for kite flying
and that is what we did

now I try to hold onto yesterday with
all my mental and physical strength
safekeeping you in a time and place
where you never age another day

young and vibrant and full of
idealistic aspirations
you continue
building your special roadmap
destined to take you to faraway places

but that was before they stole you away
and now all I hear is noise
and nothing
tastes as it should

today there is no such thing as a
summer breeze
there is only this motioning
of blackbird wings



december two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

spinning further and further out of control

time has brought change though it seems
everything remains the same
except that there are more of us going about our lives
doing the things we love to do and
doing nothing about the things we hate
because the challenge is just too daunting

so we allow all-powerful corporations to
continue making profits on weaponry and war
allow all-powerful governments to preach
peace while covertly perpetuating
conflict in faraway places
maintaining instability that has lasted
thousands of years
where lives are continually torn down and
wearily rebuilt over and over again
where faces of children
don’t understand the meaning of happiness
because they are forced to live in a world
continually spinning in a direction that is
contradictory to everything decent and just


december two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

Show and Tell in America


I didn’t expect anyone to believe me
so I kept lying about how many
men I had killed in the desert

My hands were as steady as my
steely eyes as I pretended
to be discharging my sidearm at some
goon I called Grover

When the bullets ran out I hunched
down and quickly reloaded

I could tell some of the kids
were disinterested but most
were raising their hands enthusiastically
pelting me with naive questions
as I was hauled away like some
common criminal void of any rights


december two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

when too many are thrown on the street


and the police have sanctioned bullets
and the judges have their natural-born faults
and some of the locally elected are faithful
and some of them are corrupt
and the higher up you go
from city to county
from county to state
from state to region to super region
the higher you climb the greater the ratio
between the just and unjust
between good and evil
and there’s no telling who is winning
because this kind of winning is artificial
artificial like misguided dreams
and make-believe handguns


december two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

Meeting yet again


I never told you I was a chameleon
though sometimes
I’ve said my eyes are the color of money
other times they’re as blue
as my melancholic thoughts

Sometimes I tell myself I should call in sick
but every monday morning
you talk me out of it
and suddenly I’m gone
like a paperboy on a mission

Whistlers usher in five o’clock and
we meet yet again at our favorite pub
toasting to good health
and choosing favorite colors
giving new meaning to our astonishing lives


december two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

of ferris wheels and roller coasters


it started with wheels made of rocks
rolling down grassy hills
chased by boys in sparse clothing
whooping and hollering for the damn
thing to stop

such imagination led to saddles for
elephants and chariots for horses
led to rickshaws powered by men
led to river boats exploring the
river euphrates

I remember walking beside caesar
back home via the appian way

I remember shadowing jesus
riding his pony into jerusalem

there are plenty of magic carpet
rides to steal upon
taking you back to that exact
place where you remember
witnessing everything for the
very first time


december two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

voices beneath the surface


lost in north atlantic amongst winds
and clouds and the darkest of days
I steal glances from my captain’s log
find glimpses of london calling

ship hands from top to bottom believe
those quiet voices beneath the surface
got under his skin and commanded
his ship to sail in a new direction

countless weeks later we finally landed
the fullest of moons guiding us ashore
my captain safely back in london
his men starving to start a new life


december two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

the angel’s scroll


the sixth trumpet soundeth no more
and the clouds
enclosed within the outer dome
rolled in a deathly lull before the storm

like lightning an angel as large as
a million men
stepped through the barrier clouds
left foot landing on soil the other on sea

raising his hands up towards the darkness
the final judgments
unfolded by way of seven peals of thunder
transcribing the terror soon to take place

the lord commanded me to sit back
my pen and paper
grounded as the giant angel called forth
the presence of the seventh trumpeter

as the carnage of his enemies ensued
I was ordered
to take the scroll from the giant angel
and ingest what seemed to be a tasty treat

forced to witness warfare never before
seen on this earth
the scroll in my belly turned pungent as the
nonbelievers struggled to survive this world


november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

love your enemies


I turned the other cheek
just as I had been taught
and a flat hand raced by
leaving imprints even time
could not erase

I loved my neighbor
just as I had loved myself
but I was arrested and
sentenced to the pit without
due course

I had forgiven your sins
but was charged with blasphemy
cursed and kicked and spat on
accused of pretending
to be perfect


november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

The Route


Before the alarm sounds the route would be traced
In my mind. The wind and snow and ice reminds me
That one day efficiency will be gained
By the bike. In those days Mother or Father
Don’t wake at five-thirty to afford assistance.
Never in the dead of winter do their warm,
Intimate bodies think of withdrawing from the
Comfort of their bed. I arise nonetheless, finger
Touching the “off” button just as the clock crows,
My sanity wishing for the morning birds that
Used to be my signal. The route could always be
Done in my sleep, so I contend, though I had never
Tried once, not even during the worst Iowa blizzard
When the sub-zero temperatures prevent the
Bundle from arriving. On that day the rounds are
Made after school when friends throw snowballs at cars,
Their actions envied and mimicked by contemptuous
Paperboy throws. During the shorter days, when the route
Takes twice as long than by bike, my first fonts
Evolved: paperless poems and tool-less music
Self-absorbing like the Salem I smoke: one every
Four blocks. At that hour only Judge Benton and
Missus Vee might see the glow or breath from my air,
Slightly thicker than usual as I exhale the noxious
Words. Even then I want to be older than my age
An excuse for cursing and smoking and
Believing without doubt that to achieve immortality
Is to withstand the next winter.


originally penned nineteen ninety-seven
audio recorded november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

nine of swords


she turned a card and without lifting her eyes
asked me when I had quit smoking

it was years ago I said
I remember it was on president’s day

you were wise to do so she said
otherwise you would not be here today

I nodded my head as she turned another card

was that about the same time you
gave up the church she asked
deciding to pursue salvation on your own

this time I did not say a word but simply
waited for her to turn another card
and when she did so the candle flickered
and neither of us breathed

regaining her senses she lifted her head
her eyes slowly opened
her mind asking me
why in the world I’ve been unable
to forgive myself


november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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