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poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the category “War Poems”

crows of aleppo


crow followed me home
like a shadow over my sorrow
squawking like a dog does
not knowing where to turn

by the time I got there
it had burned to the ground
that crow following me home
suddenly a dozen or more

as they circled up above
a calm enveloped my being
those crows following me home
neither ally nor enemy




june two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

no time for baseball


it’s the bottom of the ninth
and nobody’s keeping score
and though the lights are on
the stadium is nearly empty

in the comfort of my own home
I can’t reach the game on am radio
instead switch to fm and listen to
jimi hendrix covering bob dylan

early morning news feed arrives
bold headlines scream no-hitter
followed by abbreviated stories
regurgitating tales of mass destruction

weatherman breaks in unannounced
low lying fog chemically unbalanced
possibly canceling the school day
if not the entire baseball season




april two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

patient like the blackbird


in my isolation blackbird does appear
stammering about calmly impatient
deliberately explaining to me
my imaginary predicament

he says we’ve flown many times
into the unknown
much like a dream that repeats
but only after long intervals
like how distant planet orbits her sun

I’ve rescued you many times
(he goes on to explain)
taking you to the safety of the towers
where you witness firsthand
flocks of blackbirds
feasting into the night




april two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

tip-toeing


opposition forces positioned themselves
in the most peculiar way
so much so nobody seemed to notice
exactly who they were
or what they were doing

last fall foot soldiers were ordered to plant
thousands of tulip bulbs in the minefields
but not all that went in came back alive
and the ones who did rested uncomfortably
for the rest of their lives

by the time spring solstice arrived
the enemy had mysteriously withdrawn
and all the local children awakened with smiles
welcoming the newly risen sun
proceeding to run cautiously
through her once glorious meadows




april two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

land of radioactive blossoms


the truth started long before jesus
and the common era
crowd obsessed with lynching anyone
they could never quite
understand

if you can’t hang the one you’ve
got your finger on
find their next of kin
they’re pretty much one in the
same

passersby and bystanders turn a blind eye
just like good old peter once did
(god how we never do learn)

land of paradise is nowhere to be found
not in these here parts
and that place where milk and honey
flow freely
well that’s just some fairy tale etched upon
stone

though the flowers growing in disputed lands
can be quite beautiful
somewhere along the line
they simply become part of the battlefield
buried in the past with inevitable
probability of resurrecting
some warm midsummer
day




april two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

counting down the days


after the invasion we stopped lighting candles
instead looked to the stars for answers

the children were best at hide-and-go seek
despite the risk of never being seen again

days of routine left us long after the last train
and now what remains is this suffocating reality
where dreams and nightmares are but one in the same

there are no more rivers to cross or towns to destroy
no more ghosts to disperse or spirits to dispel
no more lessons to be learned
no more ransoms to be paid
no more saviors to be born
no more lives to be saved




march two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

promises made in haste


we learned to swim in arizona bay
long after the great shake
the one predicted ad nauseum
for a century or more
predicated on the fact
tectonic plates eventually
can’t help themselves

we talked often about migrating
down to all saints bay
but by the time paper dreams
developed into concrete plans
santa monica was already
crumbling into the sea

flashbacks take over in no particular order
replaying those days somewhere
near baghdad
digging trenches west of the euphrates
smoking camels and breathing
out fire and sand
promising ourselves under starlight
one day we’ll make it back
all the way to southern california




march two thousand eighteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

before the invasion


there is intimacy in the air
you can feel it like an imminent
thunderstorm on a midsummer afternoon

instruments shake and shout
going off the charts (as they say)
little ones hunkered further down
seated in circle of arms interlocked
chanting brand new psalms

preparations embrace for the inevitable
battening down hatches
buttoning down last minute details
counting down time
like some spaceship launch

there is intimacy in the air
you breath it in deeply (embracing it)
knowing full well
you may never feel again





december two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

beyond next prosaic hill


champagne corks will pop like wild
wild west pistols shooting for the moon
like fireworks on the fourth of july
quickly consumed by darker forces

many will die but many will take their place
and they will do it over and over again
time and time again
for the sake of exercise
repeating without comprehending

more champagne follows each advance
short celebrations followed by praise
more ale for brothers and sisters in arms
their invisible halos dying to be seen





december two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

radio free america


play-by-play deejay
dominating the airwaves
feets stomping and voices shouting
ordinary citizens rejoicing in city square

they pipe in radio from the clouds
or so the children are told
it’s absolutely magic they cry
dancing the night away

far away high-stepping drum majors
lead troops out of war zones
prisoners bound and singing
bringing up the rear

meanwhile baseball diamond
becomes makeshift refugee camp
address announcer recounting
nineteen sixty-seven world series



september two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

destined to live and die here


wild horses stampede across
artificial hill outside waterloo
approximate to major shift
mountains and men bleeding
causing much exhilaration

kilometers away once free men
soon comprehend how bravado
and bondage have consequences
banished behind underground bars
joyous songs piping in

it’s been seven months or more
since the sun has shined
yet people continue to arrive
pilgrims and commoners and nobility
partaking in the simplest pleasures
praising daily powers that be



september two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

commissioned to the colorful meadow


when I reached one hundred years
there were no celebrations
for the world was at war yet again

though unable to wield bow & arrow
I could still shoot a rifle
I tried to explain to the chieftain
but he pushed me aside
and called for the next in line

three days passed
and I showed up yet again
this time with shovel in hand
explaining how a man my age
could still dig graves

he kissed me on both cheeks
first this one and then the next
followed by shouting out
my marching orders



august two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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