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poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the category “In the City”

One Bourbon

a tribute poem to John Lee Hooker

it was hot
but not too hot
and this here old man
sat back on red and plush parlor chair
right there on the sidewalk
his old gibson and radio style mic
plugged into beat-up fender amp

he started strumming this chorus
picking the verses
explaining how he hadn’t seen his girl
since night before last
strumming and picking
his feet tapping the concrete
tenement windows opening
children eyes blinking
mouths widening and smiling

neighborhood cats and dogs and
even mice are drawn to the curbside
children coming out a’running
a young woman sitting cross-legged
on second story window sill
snapping fingers and tearfully
relating to the old man’s story

they’ve all been down this road before
every single body within earshot
soulful and sad but ever so hopeful
realistically aware how it’s
easier said than done
washing away those same old blues




april two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

Who knew the other side of you


Dani wouldn’t be caught dead
marching in any damn parade
she had bigger dreams in mind
than floating down inner city streets

She wore black on the outside
painted her face so as not to be seen
but on the inside everything was green

There are so many ways
to break the cycle
so tell me what keeps you hiding
inside these temporary shadows

I knew you when you were but a child
how you used to chase sparrows
climbing trees and singing songs
pretending the world could do you no harm

Somewhere along the line
you are born again
awakening like grass among wildflowers
elbowing for space and praying to starlight
reaching out for the next sunrise




march two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

a celebration of life


there is sadness in the streets
and anguish in the hearts of strangers

they gather on your behalf
knowing full well
it may be too little and too late

some say it was a midnight march
disguised as a parade
while others felt compelled to participate
simply by way of gut feeling

you could see it in their eyes
those watching silently by the wayside
an unmistakable colorlessness
falling upon the night

in the meantime little ones
searched for little pieces of candy
only to find diamond-shaped tears
glistening from the moonshine





february two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

naturally incognito


meanwhile I’m staying underground
practicing one line after the next
just in case I get called into court

I found myself some used dress shoes
decided to stash the boots I copped
a few weeks before winter set in

for those who care to know
my lady left me weeks ago
she was crazy and demanded
too much of my money in exchange
for not enough attention

word has it new counterfeiter arrived
is setting up shop somewhere downtown
and something tells me he just
may need an apprentice

anticipating sunrise will be shedding
light on third and third
I flip through my wallet like a
moving picture show
taking my time randomly picking
who I should be today





february two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

passing through yet again


I sat on inner city park bench
and wondered what had
become of poetry

it was sunday
and god knows where the
transients had gone
especially on such a warm
and peaceful winter day

I like to hear church bells
ringing from blocks away
imagining all the men in
black overcoats and top hats
children holding hands with
women in white gloves

it was an overcast day
and I felt the urge to embark
if not sometime soon
definitely by sundown
destination yet to be seen

sitting inside idling aircraft
I try to imagine what will
become of tomorrow





february two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

seven come eleven


travelers and visitors
and even some locals
could never resolve
north from south
in this dirty rivertown
mainly due to mississippi
snaking through from
east to west

when floating casinos
arrived at the docks
it made the rich
even richer
leaving the poor
picking up the scraps
and scratching
state-issued lottery tickets

downtown bus station
sees greyhounds
coming and going
on the hour every hour
from 6 am until midnight
taking out the weary
and welcoming in the
delusional and the hopeful





february two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

a winter that wasn’t


there is a package on the doorstep
but nobody is home to accept it

another package is added to the first
and then another and yet another

letterbox has slowly been filling
and gradually overflows

passersby notice the accumulation
their curiosity growing
some thinking they can hear telephone
ringing and ringing and ringing

a grey tiger gazes out picture window
but nobody seems to notice how
desperate she may be

eventually thieves pick up the packages
and empty the letterbox
eventually cat abandons window sill

weeks go by
followed by people coming and going

gradually things seem to change for the better
the color of the siding
the style of the windows
the vehicles parked in the carport

come springtime there are children
playing in the backyard
and the people strolling by
are once again smiling





january two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

waking up entire neighborhood


pretending new moon
shines upon streets of singapore
I am reminded
of candles in window

flashing lights scream across
inner city streets
red and blue and white hot
giving chase inside
some long forgotten dream

bursting open barriers
words make inner sounds
slowly raising my consciousness
at two twenty-two in the morning

unopposed to where I landed
I play out my part in the dark
arms raised
and mouth wide open
cornered in some well-lit alley





january two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

An uncertain smile


I swear it was Stan sitting there
in the Iowa City ped mall
full head of hair and black beard no less
complete with Salem in hand

He appeared to be drawing
charcoal pencil on cotton paper
backpack and camera strapped across
bench made of iron and wood

Of course it couldn’t possibly be him
afterall it will be nineteen years
this summer since Stan
had vanished into thin air

I wanted to walk up to him
and ask him twenty questions
ending with exactly why he went away
and was it really the right decision

He must have detected my stare
and before I turned to face the crowd
I tried to put on a smile
he waving back with great uncertainty





january two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

the faces inspired her


inside city park
faces inspiring or otherwise
come and go by day
and by night
uncaring free spirits sitting on benches
walking across water
or upon thin air

in the center
there is a god continually
creating
taking in all the inspired faces
(or otherwise)
rearranging destinies by way
of fortunes or falls
turning rain into sunshine
and night into day






january two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

to be continued


there is strength in numbers
whether advancing or
retreating in dead of night

something rushed through last night
like a freight train unannounced
leaving in its wake
an odd curiosity

to go onto the next metropolis
that is the trick
sometimes easier said than done
depending upon weather conditions
and level of determination

somehow you find yourself
smack dab in middle of caravan
cruising down interstate thirty-five
final destination to be continued





december two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

winter migration


it may be the same song but
absolutely not the same dance

I’m not looking to tell a story
beneath downtown streetlamp
shining brightly on a particular corner
young hopeless couple
dancing to piped-in music and
big fat snowflakes
falling down at midnight

in mid december crows
grow in numbers along the river
where homeless often roam along
natural and artificial lights

sirens often interrupt airwaves
screaming across bridges
troopers and fire trucks and ambulances
chasing down their own stories

there is a small fire down below
keeping warm the cold
occasional small talk sometimes
turning angry
questioning the powers that be





december two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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