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poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the category “Poetry”

another intervention


we were rehabbing under the bridge
swapping needles and day old bread
keeping the fire alive despite
the dampness in the air

there’s hardly any signal down here
but we had no problem
dialing in songs for the deaf
one rock classic after another

I hadn’t seen my sweetie in weeks
but word on the street says
she’s got to get me into her life
long before the next intervention



january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

what comes around


days getting longer
mid-morning colder than the day before
pedestrians walking briskly
hands stuffed inside pockets
inaudible words escaping into the air

breathe baby breathe
there’s never been a better time to be alive
everyone knows it can’t be
this cold for that much longer
here take my electric flannel blanket

it’s true we both know
the rains will again return like clockwork
washing away what remains
recalling strange familiarity
perhaps starting the final fateful season




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

one-way ticket


I don’t care where you’re from
we’re all temporarily visiting
foreigners in our own little world
or traveling extensively abroad

whether by land or sea or air
we’re randomly cast together
unchosen companions integrated
into an unlikely community
a single entity
be it aboard a bus or ship or plane

departures and arrivals taking place
morning noon and night
loved ones sitting next to strangers
sadistic gamblers laying odds
which ones make it home alive




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

casting lots from down below


I’ve been waiting for you to die
for far too long
but now here I am on my own deathbed
just as I had feared
you arriving out of the blue
and looking down at me
the last sight I’m ever going to see

I ask myself what went wrong
all these years wasted
accumulating chopsticks & stones
and buttons & bottle caps
regretting why
I never turned them
into my own trademark piece of art

already they’re talking about who will
take over my room
dozens of rats in the basement
smoking cigars
and throwing weighted dice
some whispering & some yelling
come seven come eleven




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

filling my not so little cherry box


you kept things from us
for so many years
since the day you were born
I undoubtedly suppose
crafty and full of light
mysterious and joyously dark
constantly stashing away things
bits and pieces of yourself
you knew would one day be found

all these years having since passed
and still I’m filling the box
you made me with
not-so-accidental artifacts
periodically found in the most
unexpected places
leaving me to imagine
whether or not
you ever left us in the first place




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

jack daniels and candlesticks


cancellations and closings
scrolling ad nauseum
alphabetically directly below
animated weather map

the snow never came
like they said it would
though the freezing rain
arrived unexpectedly
sleeting sideways and relentlessly
coating every single wire and branch
from here until next tuesday
putting the city and her
satellites out of commission

there’ll be no welfare checks
not tonight or tomorrow or
maybe ever again
the powers that be giving way
to unapologetic anarchy
all because of a little weather




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

ready. aim. fire.


wielding rifle or bow and arrow
shooting apples out of the sky
see how they fall one by one
nobody on the ground to catch them

a collection basket on sunday
quickly filling with thoughts and prayers
empty promises passed from one
lost soul to the next
hush money as they say
as if the original atrocity wasn’t enough

watch where you’re aiming young man
otherwise your fiery missile
could miss and hit
the broadside of the moon
thereby unleashing untold consequences




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

where do we go from here


I knew his intentions
from the very beginning
having picked me up just before
noon in the big boat convertible
six rolling rock tall boys
sweating in the back seat

we find ourselves on unfamiliar
backroads without directions
he calmly says
he’s got this one
as we slow things down
and gradually ratchet up the hill

once at the top I close my eyes
he raises his hands off the wheel
suddenly recreating
a scene he’s always known
and me instantly realizing
this time he’s not alone




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

though the earth never stops quaking


streetlamps shining
casting eerie shadows
before the dead of dawn
crows waking sparrows
the former curiously trailing
one thousand feet
marching on city streets

some say even though
the earth never stops quaking
the fog of war will one day
dissipate unto itself
giving way to a certain
kind of incomparable light
like an everlasting sunrise




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

hollywood vampires


I get into work early
it’s still dark
once the heater
has finally warmed
my still sleepy bones
I get out of the car

I get out and lock the car
using just my mind
proceed to walk away
as if I was never there
in the first place

there are few of us left
showing ourselves
just before daybreak
coasting this way and that
be it hand in hand
or heart to heart
no longer worried about
stranger things




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

blind date


I hadn’t shaved in a few days
but at least I showered

I keep telling myself I’m doing
so much better since

they talked me down

and now here I am
a few days later going on

a blind date

smelling somewhat delicious
and sporting a three day beard

as I wait looking out the front window
I keep asking myself

what the hell am I supposed
to talk about




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

115 Iowa Avenue


I keep changing for no apparent reason
one nondescript day superseding the next
as if I was back in college

The night before you leave a message
about hooking up at Joe’s Place

Of course I don’t recall your words
until the next morning
and by the time I’m halfway through
19th Century Literature
I’m making up any kind of excuse
to cut the hell loose

It’s 4 pm on a Monday afternoon
and I’m exactly where I want to be
[albeit some forty years later]
ordering a cold one and stringing
together words on ruled paper
laying 50/50 odds this time you’ll show




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

errand boy in a foreign land


go and find out what the people
are saying on the streets he tells me
so I put on my coat and gloves and hat
and leave the safety of the consulate

the winds are strong and push me
three blocks toward the city center
to the river where a mass of unknowns
huddle with picket signs and chanting
in a language I do not understand

the closer I approach the swarm
the more I realize I’m an invisible alien
set out on some improbable quest
quite possibly never to return back home




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

made in america


playing monopoly halfway seriously
building hotels on mediterranean avenue
all the while dabbling in regional politics

you might find expats inside crossfire cafe
plying chocolate lattes and rolling dice
taking undue risks for a small piece of the pie

since when were any of us ever really safe
whether rebuilding railroads or utilities
dodging bullets or thrown shoes
all of which were likely made in america




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

too good to be true


how many times have I said this
whether directly
or in so many words
sitting on the front porch swing
or lying back on the hood
of your ‘69 camaro
counting stars on a cloudless night

each time you tell me
you’ve no idea what’s in store
I reply with a silent nod and smile
imagining one day
the light will shine just right
and you’ll know
exactly how good it can be




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

painted faces


we’re a militia of sorts
not quite young men but certainly
not children
we carry maps and canteens
and know the terrain
better than any local old men

khakis and camouflage
work best inside these ancient
indian trails
where tree climbing and sniping
go hand in hand
protecting friend from foe

self taught and preserving
what little turf we’ve left
we fight for immunity
against all unnatural laws
aimed at cleansing
any peoples like our own




january two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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