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poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the category “War Poems”

an ordinary world


tanks rolling through town
escorting a larger entourage
little legs running right along
keeping up with the pace
robotic machines with long legs & long arms
marching & singing ‘one two three four
who are we fighting for’

everything’s been canceled
the parade is all there is
children singing ‘one two three four’
lighting snakes & small fires by the curbside
strategizing about stargazing
wildly boasting of shooting the moon
and bringing down the sun god




september two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

reading braille


once the war
was so many years old
the children picked up braille
& began reading again
fairly easily


august two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

thunder & lightning


something wakes me up
after only a few hours of sleep
rising to my feet in darkness
somehow feeling fully recharged
at two or three in the morning

who is there I ask
and what could you possibly want
at this hour of the day
preventing me from entering
the next stage of sleep
where I am accustomed to consulting
with the dead & the living
guest spirits guiding me
toward the eastern light

but now I live in a different world
left to wander on someone else’s terms
sometimes solving complex problems
but mostly stuck inside a foxhole
attempting to outlast the pounding




july two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

never imitate (and never die young)


never imitate but be yourself
my mama once told me

but who am I mama but a boy
like all other boys
wondering when I will become a man

never hurry son and never imitate
learn to love yourself first

but who am I mama but a boy
dreaming of going to war
and dying a courageous death

oh no child you will never go to war
take that silly notion out of your head
learn to never imitate and remain yourself
even when you are lost and alone

but mama I don’t want to be
lost and alone
I want to go off to war
and never come back
and make you as proud as you can be




february two thousand twenty
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

Those cold November days


I heard we lost the war again
when will we ever learn
from what I can tell probably never
not as long as the profits keep rolling in

Back in the old neighborhood
kids come and kids go
each generation playing with
weapons just as lethal as the next
most living to tell their stories
precious few never coming home again

When we return year after year
we don’t have a lot to say
though we all know what happened
out in the fields
will always feel like it was yesterday




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

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

the gardens of babylon


as my memory fails me
I attempt to recapture
my chain of thought
especially concerning
what we’re fighting for

the gardens of babylon
belong to every man
woman and child
created by a power
mightier than any sword

yet destruction reigns
the gardens simmering
with smoke and fire
wiped out by a million
and one shooting stars

taking in my final breaths
I rejoice believing
the gardens of babylon
will return in all their glory
free from any threat of war




december two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

I heard a little girl say she’s in love with him


I see you from afar
comfortable in your own skin
a color often found in dreams
lighter than olive drab
and darker than brown sugar
especially complemented
by an absorbent southern sun

I heard a little girl say
someone’s in love
with an american soldier
passing out dark chocolate
and I can only imagine she’s
repeating something she heard
from a black and white movie

but that was long ago
and today is a different story
those american boys
now more than long gone
nothing but an unrelenting image
like bombs falling from the sky
displacing once bright colors




october two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

transplanting poppy fields


I listened to the sad sad story
how the war had taken its toll
it left me wondering of the fields
and when they would ever bloom

the story never seems to end
borders constantly changing
women and children marching on
poppies pinned to their hearts




october two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

the valley of bones


listen can you hear it
the changing of the guard
constructively rattling sabers
as if directed by the stars

at birth we were promised
there’d be peace in our time
yet the war machine rages on
so many years past our prime

who am I but a mercenary
or a prophet sent by the lord
reborn on this earth to deliver
a final cannonball of hope




september two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

portrait of a street artist


I often retell the same stories
or so I’m told
but I keep thinking I stopped doing that
once moving out of the basement

how many years has it been now
I ask mostly myself
but I remember a complete stranger
once say it’s been nine years

that was at least six seasons ago
but as far as I’m concerned
the war is never over
even though ambassadors assure me
quite confidently
otherwise

I’ve not held a job since moving
out of the basement
even though I’m told I’m as hireable
as the next one
but who wants to be the next one
not me I tell the pretty lady with a
pencil and bic pen stuck in her hair
tri-folding papers and reciting old lines

I go on to tell her
all I really need these days
are some cans of spray paint
and the next good idea
usually conjured in my head
during the overnight hours
planted there by an apologetic god




september two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

many a madman


the war rages on but there’s no telling
which side is winning
no telling precisely who’s the enemy

I’m too old to fight I tell the tin soldier
glued atop my dashboard
attempting to persuade me
to uncover my weapons
buried beneath the floorboards

I tell him I’ve long abandoned my post
and refuse to fight for anyone but me
ditching the ideals of many a madman
instead giving chase to a setting sun
slowly fading into pacified waves




august two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

this never ending war


this never ending war
call it evolution of revolution
as predictable as time itself
spinning and orbiting
one object around another

robotic tin soldiers
advancing exponentially
mercurial eyes laser sharp
lethal like the very weapons
they wield on command

the course of human history
seemingly on autopilot
at odds with peacemakers
challenging old world warlords
brokering old deals with satan




july two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

war correspondent


it’s not like I’ve not been trapped before
in the most dangerous cities in the world
keeping my sanity by recounting
what I can in my own little black box
capturing complicated stories
of lives on the move

play zones exist anyplace imaginable
especially for toy soldiers
expanding their capabilities since birth
learning to run with or without
a gun to grasp or hand to hold
duck and covering instinctively

with greater frequency I’m unable to reload
either from fear or lack of supplies
waiting on a lull in the action
a chance to buy or steal more ammunition
before once again shooting at will
at men inside boxes with eyes sewn shut




june two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

white flag


she’s in my head now
[how can she not be]
having gone off to war
without saying goodbye

she’s off to change the world
oh how I want to tell her
[but never will I speak]
how there’s nothing
left to change
only pieces to be moved

lately I’ve been dreaming
of tanks and bombs and drones
awakening my bones like clockwork
[in the year nineteen ninety-one]
waving a white flag
and bringing her back home




june two thousand nineteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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