jdubqca

poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the category “In the City”

when north became south


you lost me when I wasn’t looking
like a silver dollar vanishing
via sleight of hand

when the poles switched
nearly everyone became displaced
like foreigners held
hostage inside their own homes

those less fortunate were
forced to learn a new language
whether it be spoken or not

in the city center they hung
disobedient juveniles
upside down by the ankles
shaking the contents from their britches
making all the little ones appear out of nowhere
like cockroaches scrambling on all six



march two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

the invasion of invisible aliens


standing at the corner of 1st & 3rd
waiting for the light to turn green
fingers tumble down pockets
only to resurface empty-handed

unnoticed by the masses
newly born immigrants jaywalk
these inner city streets
crossing four lanes once occupied
by gas-powered vehicles

I’m told they’re everywhere
but mostly inside your head
emptying out your pockets like
some sort of arcane video game

I used to walk the streets at night
but it became too bright
making me feel like a second class citizen
like a moving target dodging
in and out of alleyways



february two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

taken to a nearby hospital


the city was on fire
and I was like a lost lamb
roaming past identical houses
hoping the next turn opens up
to a countryside I once knew by heart

they say the nightlife is the best here
where the most beautiful people gathered
to forget the past

but then it was gone in a flash
like a trick of the mind
there you see it
there you don’t
limbs gyrating like an egyptian
eyes mesmerized
believing just about anything

there was a man with a staff
crying out in the city center
where the river divided the land
and though I was perfectly lost
I heard him clearly above the
sirens and screams and
deadly detonations



january two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

a streetcar with no name


the sun won’t rise for a couple
hours more
but already the roads
are snow-covered above
and icy below

in most neighborhoods
the morning paper never arrives
and to anyone
daring to venture outside
experiences soft wood burning
and blackbirds squawking

up and down the streets
automobiles idle in driveways
or along curbsides
warming up to new ideas

(earlier a deadly accident
occurs on a lonely street corner)

you cannot hear it
nor can you sense it
you cannot even fathom it
until it slowly disseminates into the air
over a relatively short period of time



december two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

tutoring on the southside


identities defined by society
broadcasted on media
country folks uninterested
understanding why children
struggle with reading or arithmetic

I was sitting in their house
playing mario brothers
and so many people
walked on by

who’s your white friend
someone asked my girlfriend
and I pretended not to hear
even though there was nothing
wrong with my spanglish

you know I told her
I’d never been on this side of
nineteenth street before
but I feel just as safe here
as I do anywhere else



november two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

going hungry


I lay perfectly still on a fold-out cot
breathing shallowly
staring at a yellow light bulb
screwed into the ceiling

my hallucinations seem as real as flattened
homes in once peaceful neighborhoods
as sickening as makeshift hospitals
targeted and destroyed
as frightening as displaced little ones roaming
buckled streets inside urban war zones

exhausted and in a cold sweat
I’m visited by an attendant who takes my pulse
patting my forehead with a damp paper towel

she encourages me take a sip of water
my lips cracked and thin and stinging when
pressed against the thick glass

she rises to her feet and crosses her arms
looking at the black and white footage
streaming from the television screen

she picks up the tray of untouched food
and walks away
shaking her head like she always does



november two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

looking past the glass


windows cut into stone walls
lining brick-laid streets
encasing faceless mannequins
watching the world spin by

some sitting on bar stools
others standing in pose
modeling teacups or tumblers
elbows rising and falling in time

outsiders dare not look inside
lest they become mesmerized
lured into a complacent hold
baring nothing but skin and bone



november two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

precious declarations


I don’t belong here in this place where ordinary men
walk beside bearded men on a mission
to save the world from unrighteousness

I emptied my pockets
to show them I had nothing to offer
and then I pointed to a vaulted door
where I said the world’s fortune can be found
as long as they can handwrite a note
and strap themselves with explosives

down the street they imploded a highrise
and now once extraordinary humans crawl on
hands and knees searching through the rubble
for something that isn’t there

most days I just sit on a park bench
and marvel at the keys I’ve collected
showing my shadowless friends
how this one used to start my car
how this one once lowered the drawbridge
and how this one (in conjunction with the guard key)
unlocks a strongbox safekeeping the world’s
most precious declarations



november two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

outside these city walls


I was thinking about changing things up
by rising out of bed without an agenda
hitting the streets on steel tipped boots
marching alongside a new kind of drummer

they blocked off the old holiday parade route
days before dismantled tanks rolled in
armless soldiers handing out ruby red grapefruits
and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies

I walked alongside millions of newfound friends
all drawn to this place by an unknown star
embracing change with song and dance
(while outside these city walls)
stockpiles of old ideas burned day and night



october two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

as I turn off the light


the sun rises in the east
and there is no place to escape

time chases me in my sleep
forcing me into places I would
never dare enter otherwise

the sun dangling over my shoulder
I’m reminded I could be facing
something much worse
than my own shadow

the city streets are cold tonight
interminable winds whistling
past streetlights that never dim



october two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

preparing for peace


pressure cookers
left on roadside
explode harmlessly
at midday rush hour

the prince is tied up
having his hair done
the news at nine
report nothing

stray dogs and cats
wander the streets
window shopping
after sundown

the city is silent
bracing for the calm
children catching
fireflies in glass jars

the bottle is empty
the magic is gone
the king is all but dead
long live the queen



october two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

midnight intolerance


some kids came by the house
on the fourth of july weekend
looking for signatures

they explained that hornets
had been moving into the neighborhood
and they’ll be damned
if they’re going to sit idly by
before a few turned into a swarm

I told them I wasn’t going to sign
their damn petition
that I liked the hornets
that I even kept some out back

I locked the screen door
and walked away
ignoring their name-calling
concerned how my outer walls
just became prime targets for
midnight egg throwing practice



october two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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