jdubqca

poetry by j matthew waters

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

impossible to stay on top


apparent victors come and go
just like their opposites who crawl
and walk and run behind the scenes
climbing mystical mountains and
sailing impossible dreams
asked to start fires
put out fires and
catapult fireworks into the night
fallout from the blasts twinkling
like a dying star
consumed by the unseen


november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

the sound of winter


room by room he drifted
attending to the windows
first shutting the storm
then locking the
lower sash with the upper

he moved mechanically
like an old timepiece
powered by the sun
the swift hand moving
hesitatingly from lack of light
his thoughts fleeting
like the gray winds outside

leaning on the last window
he felt oddly safe
but desperately alone
the sound of winter
forever secured inside


november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

capital I is for me


this is my poetry the way I like it
and sometimes it’s just not good
or not nearly good enough
but it’s mine and I’ll stand beside it
the good along with the bad
the funny and serious and corny
left for dead in the city
or alive out in the country
jamming to the blues or rock and roll
those poetry gods gave me the freedom
to do whatever I like
including those floating butterfly verses
only I can call my own

nobody
can make me change anything
not one letter from a lower to upper case
or vice versa
because the way I wrote it
the first time
that’s how it was meant to be
and it makes no difference whether or not
it was the way it ought to be


november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

on rare occasions she fell to her knees


I gave birth to peace and named her chance
raised her sheltered from the realities
of a desperate world

coming of age she traveled abroad
fell in love with mercenary work
promising to end man’s repeated mistakes
and reverse the cycle of madness

she circled the globe to feed the hungry
and comfort the orphaned
mending open wounds from strangers
protecting their own unresolved pasts

on rare occasions she fell to her knees
and cursed me for her failures
the pain in her prayers piercing my arm
reminding me
just how much I miss her


november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

through these walls


the seasons turned but I wasn’t ready for it
I was too busy looking back on the
opportunities I had squandered
brushed aside like slight inequities
rotting into things undone

I knew the snowblower in the garage
wouldn’t start so I put a blanket over it

I brought in the shovels from the shed

the snow may be the death of me I told myself
but I’ll be damned if I can’t still dig

I wasn’t ready to go back into the house
so I pulled out a beer from the fridge
and sat on the workbench
vague images of things undone coming
to mind and mixing with telephones
ringing through these walls



november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

angels of mercy


birds of all nations storm
war-torn suburbia
switchblades and derringers
concealed under wing
blanketing rooftops and lining live wires
waiting patiently for night to fall

predawn fog smothers the moon
and silences the stars
cloaking angels of mercy
and their effortless wings
zeroing in on and sweeping away
newly orphaned refugees



november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

make-believe worlds


who are we but pretend gods
unable to tame the time of day
huddled en masse on street
corners and freeways
and white-hot beaches
putting out fires and chasing
ambulances
running away from tsunamis and
disease and ghostly dreams
practicing ego and yoga and war
and the finest of arts
orchestrating chaos by day and
reciting poetry at night
calling for real gods in a pretend
world to somehow set us free



november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

recounting history


the torch may fade from time to time
may flicker like a pilot’s light
disappearing over the sea

below the surface the torch
resumes its glow
likely to be found by henchmen
digging foxholes

beware the silence
they warned
lifting their torches
and charging a newfound
enemy with fiery explosions

in the aftermath smoldering fires
resurrect memories of old promises
feeding those who hunger
rebuilding what was destroyed

as new histories emerge new
generations evolve
securing the torches in submerged silos
believing that without peace
all the yesterdays of the world
added up to nothing



november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

blue skies and pink slips


late afternoons
sitting at the desk
facing the side window in the sweaty efficiency
drinking mickey’s malt liquor
and banging on the smith corona
I hardly notice the oscillating fan impersonating
a little robot stuck on a floor board
can barely hear the radio putting out music
or airing another baseball game

outside
the neighbor’s black lab patrols the fence line
barking indiscriminately

blank pages
enter the rollers and withstand
a barrage of pelted bars
launched by levers by way of fast fingers
fanciful ribbons turning pure white sheets into
paperless dreams creasing and
folding and pretending to be airplanes

so many summers ago
I launched countless letters into the jetstream
some struggled to make it out alive
others fading with the setting sun
a few lucky ones breaking the outer atmosphere
only to crash and burn inside wire baskets


november two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

thirty stories tall


sweetly your song presents
promises
and stays forever in tune
like a prayer

in my mind I hear nothing
but a repeated melody
that is never tiring and
always alive in my dreams

there is an inescapable part of
young love
never lost between inception and death
somehow living on above reality

alone thirty stories high
I endure my lowest hour
mindful all is equal between young lovers

oh cruel world
thank you for delivering unto me
your irony
for without it
I would have given up long ago

I would not give up the world
for anything except you
would not allow myself
to be alienated from your
yesterday or today
would always be near you
wherever you may be

first kiss so true
oh so vivid in our minds
first love at first sight

beauty appears out of nowhere
shuts off the lights and
turns on our lives

anywhere but here
thirty stories tall
how I’d fall off the edge
to be with you right now


originally written circa nineteen eighty-five
rewrite published on ArtiPeeps earlier this year
recital recorded october two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

fleeting thoughts and butterfly nets


I borrowed someone else’s thoughts
and pinned them against a blank
sheet of paper

nothing sticks quite right the first
time so I gathered them together
and sealed them in a chrysalis
where they slowly evolved into
my own creation

(I tried returning the borrowed
thoughts to their original owners
but they all refused delivery)

new words gradually emerge
out of an abbreviated hibernation
and from there I cut and copy
and delete and tweet
and paste paste paste
all the way down easy street

but of course if it was easy
everyone would be doing it
running across backyards
and open fields
swinging butterfly nets
at their ever elusive thoughts


october two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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