jdubqca

poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the category “In the City”

Color TV


The city center is dead
like Lazarus of Bethany
three days removed from reality
soon to go on four

There are fewer varieties
of pigeons sweeping the streets
and even fewer homeless
following not much further behind

Looking for food here
is becoming a scarcity
leftovers abruptly becoming
buried with the past
aeries and penthouses
gradually vacated

Behind some high-rise windows
so many untold stories
behind off-white shrouds
varying degrees of light
flit & flutter like a butterfly
suggesting there may be life after all




april two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

sometime after palm sunday


it’s palm sunday and almost anyone
who gives a rip is doing high-fives
in web browsers and church parking lots

there’s a long line of cars stretched
for blocks near the epicenter of history
as if the life of the most famous person
in the city is hanging in the balance

in the old days there were no combustible
engines making the skies sadder
than they already are
mourners journeying to burial grounds
for what seemed to take a day or two or three




april two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

coins to spare


he’s taller than the smallest man
has been walking on water for days on end
not as mechanical as before
yet not as fluid as calligraphy

the sun’s been baking the ground
for twenty straight days
it’s near impossible to go barefoot on concrete
unless of course it lines a swimming pool

at the city park there’s a wishing well
as big as the summer sun
water pulsating twenty feet above
showering toddlers sporting pieces of cloth




april two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

essential workers wearing knockoff sunglasses


I seem to have lost my place in line
maybe that’s not a bad thing
could be better than losing your mind

I used to walk tall among the masses
but now I’m mostly an island
deep inside these inner city streets

whenever I happen upon another
strange & solitary wanderer
my eyes tend to focus on the concrete
for fear any visual contact may spark
unwarranted reactions

I hide all needless valuables
somewhere inside my workstation
where I fill half my day with imagination

the river is only a few blocks away
I close my eyes and venture outside
believing this time I can make it




march two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

river crossing


lawlessness in all its mad glory
is bound to resurface
as it has repeatedly done
since the beginning of creation

here take my hand
and follow me across the river
to where there is a sense of security
despite the lack of governance

it’s easy to see what they’ve done
once you reach the other side
a collection of ordinary citizens
freely going about their business

you ask how it’s possible this place
lacks crime and pollution
especially with unrestricted borders
and skies that never cry

of course there’s no one answer
and once we arrive and look back
at what we’ve fled
there’s nothing left to recognize




march two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

springtime festivals


things that crash and clash
like overbought stock markets
and preposterous accessories
blowing up in a single session
and overtaking empty streets
where st. patrick day parades
weave in and out of the hearts
of plump little girls and boys
scooping up wrapped candy
thrown by spooks in makeshift floats
clad in green and grey spacesuits
pants pockets turned inside out




march two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

breathing in new life


I suppose we won’t know for sure
until we’re walking dead ourselves
and even then we’ll have doubts
until everything comes into focus

there’s a reason for everything
or so they say
but try telling that to a grieving mother
whose teenage son is forever lost
now wandering amongst the dead

it’s unknown how many
continually influence our daily lives
coming and going as they please
strolling sublimely by our side

one fact remains
we don’t know what we don’t know
such as if our effortless breathing
may be more than superficial




march two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

standing in line


yes it’s true the world is dying
[is always dying]
and we are a witness to its death
[its glorious death]
a slow and painstaking process
mysteriously inevitable
and eternally unanswerable

the airports are nearly empty
and the streets eerily silent
filled with long lines of masked pantomimes
arms extended and palms open
shadowed closely by feathery creatures
unable to fly and feverishly
sweeping up the crumbs

high above the skyscrapers
far beyond the tallest of trees
patches of blue begin to emerge
perhaps a sign of better times yet to come
or simply a figment
of every child’s imagination




february two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

days after the riot


I am not who you think I am
freely walking these city streets
eyes looking forward
unafraid to be noticed as some
outsider instigator
as one who should have been arrested
with all the other hooligans
from the other night

I tell you I don’t know any of them
and despite
your inherent prejudice
I remain remarkably comfortable
in my own skin




february two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

picture perfect saturday


children stretched across the library lawn
books selected from wooden crates
spotted randomly throughout the area
beach blankets spread out here and there
little ones sitting and reading to themselves
or out loud in small groups
the mid-morning sun shining brightly
across the green expanse
saturday morning visitors walking
in and out of the main doors
not a soul saying a word



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

party crashers and grave diggers


how are we to keep track
of lives lost to the night
didn’t I see you inspecting
tomatoes at the farmers market
some sundays ago
donning floppy hat and
full moon sunglasses
a giddyup in your step
and smile on your face

the city is slowly replacing
all the streetlamps downtown
as if there’s nothing
better to do with property taxes
or maybe it’s a grander scheme
to keep the citizenry distracted
from what’s really happening
all around us

I heard they said thirteen
hail marys in your honor
before mixing a bowl
of your favorite cherry red drink
singing and dancing well past sundown
the evening eventually coming
to a complete stop
after some purse thief made off
with your daughters’ identities




december two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

somehow at peace


the skywalk system
takes me anywhere I need to go
but eventually I end up exactly
where I started
and I stop and wonder why

down below real people
walk city streets
hustling against the grain
fighting corruption & congestion
and extreme temperatures
somehow at peace
with the uncertainty it brings




december two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

morning commute


three a.m. suddenly awake
I dreamed I was unable to breathe
a self-induced choking
my hands slightly trembling
I press my palms against my cheeks
perhaps flush or white as a ghost
I could not tell
I could not tell

after walking two super-sized blocks
I dreamed I fell back asleep
encountering further interruptions
windshield wipers wiping away
intermittent freezing rain
exposing yellow school buses
fluorescent citizens walking their dogs

by the time I reach the city center
the ingenuous homeless keep me on my feet
flashing by on motorized conveyances
powered by recycled municipal waste
or donated cans of boston baked beans




november two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

iowa city sunset


the university resides on both
sides of the river
and for as long as I remember
there is nothing divisive
about this city

how many years have transpired
since finding myself recalling
bits and pieces of my stay there
of the many evenings relaxing
at the lagoon shelter house
the three of us sitting cross-legged on the deck
easily adjusting our attitudes
culminated by soundless fireworks
courtesy of a slowly descending sun




october two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

where the mississippi flows east to west


I know where I’ve been
but not necessarily where I’m going
these city streets all look the same
some running parallel with the river
others perpendicular

without the river I am lost
and sometimes
I find myself running in circles
passing the same dairy queen
once or twice or trice
eventually pulling over
for a chocolate coated dilly bar

as the young lady
hands me back my change
I ask about the river
she rolls her eyes and points
past my shoulder
as if she’s told me a hundred times




october two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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