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poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the tag “poetry”

my sweet lady in pink


the apple lives large
atop the head of tells
or so the story goes

bad ones get tossed from
beneath bridges by
witness protected trolls

I’ll be damned if you can’t
find a bad seed in this
eight by eight orchard

gravity knows no bounds
not as long as dear Isaac
has anything left to say

fleshy and newly picked
still life object shines
brightly upon teacher’s desk


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

Cupid’s wrist rocket


Tension in my arm stays tight
but I’m strong for my age
a fence jumper
and tree climber
a better shooter than William Tell

I thought I knew myself
better than this
nonetheless always find myself
transgressing with every
errantly blown kiss

I may not be the original
but I possess two sharp eyes
and even sharper arrows
let loose from treetops
piercing the loneliest of hearts


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

taking advantage


this never gets easy
this guessing game with no
real answers
written on the back of cards

how many times do I
just get in the car
looking for something
that doesn’t exist

how many times do I
open a door
just because I think
somebody is knocking

that thing around the corner
it’s pretty fucking scary
some of the time
and sometimes it’s more than scary
and that’s when you understand
just how alive you really are

so I hear this weekend is
supposed to be super nice
I suppose I should take advantage
of the situation while I still can


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

like wolves in new york city


he said his name was jesus
and I started following him
up the jersey shore
and though I’d never been
there before
I felt like I was in the right place

there were dozens of us
musicians and poets
landscapers and local artisans
walking side by side
and consumed by
one man without possessions

despite threatening winds
we trekked northward
toward sandy hook
a bay he preached about
days earlier when the
sun was much brighter

I can take you no further
he went on to say
(my days are always numbered)
and it was then and there
he set us free
like sheep amongst wolves
howling in new york city


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

figure painting


i could see you
out of the corner of my eye
my angel
wrapped in her own
feathery blanket

uninspired for over an hour
i picked up my brush
and hurriedly
lashed out at the paper tacked
to the easel
scratching our plumes
creating locks like thin-haired pasta
eyes ocean blue
half-open and watery
lips closed and
relaxed like a worn-out child

she did not move
and did not make a sound
while everyone else
looked the other way

satisfied
i picked up my things
and waved goodbye
told everyone i’d see them
again next week
especially
my tired little friend


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

transfiguration


it’s the same message
many years removed
waiting to be read
or heard
dying to be understood

void of any accusations
rife with insinuation
and inside jokes
words pretend not to be
what they seem

throughout the city
electronic billboards throw
darts into unsuspecting eyes
clouding them with mystery
perhaps mesmerized
by the power of the light

there was no crow
on sunday morning
ballasts and shades
transfigured into science
needing further observation


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

there is triviality in everything


somewhere in michigan the tap water
is very hard to drink
and somewhere in minnesota
somebody is cracking jokes

the old couple down the street
did themselves in
like in a bukowski poem
but this time the neighbors
didn’t have a clue
because the old man nuked
the TV dinners

these politics in these
united states
need somehow to reinvent
themselves
their labels clearly out of date
unable to stop the wave
that is about to take them over

some of us work on mainstreet
some of us forty stories high
some of us strive
to be alive
in the wires or better yet
on wifi
sometimes barely seen
except when needing to strike

in the meantime economic
inequalities stretch elastically
chartlines hitting new lows
and testing resistance points
while more and more children
act as runners in the alleys
just another piece of the puzzle
royal princes might say
that keeps the status quo
from taking life too seriously


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

did you replace your heart shaped key


love letter never shared
never signed
nor placed in the mail

words on a sheet
crying to be heard
like a wounded bird

cursive thoughts
weaving sad stories
short and never-ending

lost inside words
images burn bright
only to fade away

unfolded like a map
pressed by cold hands
tracing all the creases

refolded and returned
jewelry box without song
safeguards empty promises


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

toward the next tipping point


boots in the distance pounding the street
sounding off in perfect rhythm
like a faraway train

legs run in many directions
escaping lawless neighborhoods
arms signaling to the sky
screaming at nobody in particular
just calling out to be heard

airwaves are crowded with inaudible
communications
delivered in technological languages
subjected to interception and
precision translation

there is nothing secret going on
throughout the greatest cities
where multitudes
of the most ordinary
amass in breathless harmony


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

the day of the descendant


I’ve studied and analyzed
so many
who have come before me
reconstructing their lives through
research and poetry

As I lay here daydreaming
(perhaps dying)
motionless (projecting translucence)
I bid adieu to friends and foes
by clicking my heels
and tipping my old gray hat
spiritedly introducing to the world
those we’ve yet to know


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

lunar new year


new moon rises over aquarius
directing my attention to the 4th house
an empty nest simmering with thoughts
stirring and swirling with a little
help from mars and uranus
stoking the fire so to speak
pushing and pulling unnecessary things
encouraging inner conflict
that doesn’t deserve to be unleashed

this new moon in aquarius
seems to know everything
testing one’s resolve by delivering
glad tidings and dire straits
directly to my front door

determined not to give in
I breathe deeply in the silence of the mind
choosing instead to scatter
seeds in all directions
knowing full well
inner workings are best gathered
when the moon is full


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

windchill minus seventeen


on the coldest of sundays
I read the paper in bed
sipping hibiscus tea
radio station streaming
top forty songs from 1972

though the sun shines brightly
casting diagonal rays
at my concealed feet
its perceived warmth is merely
an allusion of spring

sometimes I turn my head
and count cardinals
flying past the window
probably insanely curious
as to when I’ll make
my next move


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

pretending to be understood


he found himself often
talking to himself and others
at the tavern
where bartenders were able
to read his mind
through a silent language
or some other nuance

he loved to talk sports and politics
religion and economics
no topic too toxic for his liking
quick as a flash he was
and sharp as a tack
there was no disputing
his tongue never got drunk

everyone knew he made
a living catching fish
you could smell it on his breath
beneath the whiskey
underneath the fluency of romantic
languages he often
inserted into his american english

poetry is of no importance
he often told his listeners
even if there wasn’t anyone
listening
but he would continue on anyway
telling the story of the love of his life
a mermaid from the mediterranean
who indiscreetly broke his heart

and the bartender would nod
and pour something neat
between them

“aye you are johnny on the spot”
he would say
“despite my inconsistencies you’ve
always managed to understand me”


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

undeterred


we germinated seeds wrapped in
moist paper towels
trapped inside teacup saucers
left behind beneath the kitchen sink

evicted for reasons unbeknownst
to the uncaring eye
we migrated into the metropolis
finding security amongst the living

barely surviving into the spring
we packed our things
heads held high and singing
like the birds following in our wake

crossing into newfound fertile lands
we planted something new
prayed to the gods that be
our resurrected hopes would grow


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

midnight abduction


voluntarily confined in second story room
four walls with one door
one window
locked inside for hours
watching outside world
smartphone connected to headphones

down below frenzied family interacts
fingers pushing buttons designed
to simplify lives
modern distractions creating confusion
dinner overcooked in oven
baskets of clothes stacked high
little ones devouring soggy frosted flakes

curfew sets in
lights faintly glow
cold air and distant sirens
stream in through wide open window
convoluted dreams turning sideways
by a single scream
fists pounding a simple door
barricading teenage aspirations


february two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

lost and unfound


the cat chased the crescent moon
deep into the night
encountering near death experiences
along the way
living and dying by the hour
until inevitably unseen

with the scent of the cat
fresh in the dog’s
sensory perceptions
he searched for days on end
until finally losing track of
his long-lost friend

promising to return another day
the dog headed back home
guided by a bright satellite
looming over the city
stray cats springing from the shadows
and jumping over the moon




Oscar & Chester


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

a thaw in relations


inspiration lies low
like ursa minor in hibernation
like tulip bulbs
stirring in february soil

blue eyes painted over
darkened skies
peek past wintry clouds
and toward a brand new day

open arms warmly welcome
a once elusive sun
promising to thaw a world
hopeful to rise again


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

escape velocity


my clairvoyant dreams paved the way
for so many to get out of this place

there was no time to pack a case
no time for goodbye hugs or kisses

pretending to be pretty is a futile endeavor
when there is beauty in eternity

the difference between life and breath
is as a minuscule as the smallest molecule
intrinsically gradual like the transition of seasons
cycling within this world and the next


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

surfing station to station


I turn the dial to 107.9 fm
but all I hear is ozzie or zepplin
van halen or ac/dc

I tell myself if I want to hear classic rock
I’d dial in 100.3 or maybe 105.7

whatever happened to my once
favorite retreat called rock 108
where I could always hear
something beautifully brand new
no matter how good or bad

I mean seriously
is there really not enough new rock
to make the world go ‘round anymore

the population on this planet
continues to explode
but meanwhile
I’m stuck here half-dazed
(from all the static)
surfing station to station
hoping to find a brand new groove


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

snow covered driveways


in the winter I move my
badass twenty-speed road bike
out of the garage and
down to the basement where
it hangs out of sight and mind

when the next morning arrives
I take to the streets on foot
dressed in layers so not
one part of my old body gets cold
except for maybe my cheeks

some days the streets are better
options than sidewalks
because so many lazy neighbors
can’t seem to properly clear them off

you can tell a lot about a neighbor
by looking at their sidewalks and driveways

when driveways remain snow-covered
for days on end
it tells you they’re either down in florida
yukking it up with the joneses
drinking arnold palmers and
never giving it a thought if the neighbor kid
was actually earning his keep
or they’re hopelessly homebound
deathly ill or worse yet
dead and gone
without a soul in the world
wondering where they are


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

as far as the mind can see


I dressed hurriedly for today’s
adventure out in the cold white country
beyond suburban houses shut
tight for the winter
smoke billowing out chimneys
and metal caps on rooftops

slamming the door behind me
I race down snow-covered streets
lined with streetlamps and skeleton trees
knapsack draped over one shoulder
carrying ice skates and hot chocolate
extra scarves and over-sized mittens

upon reaching base camp
the very last lot where town ends
and wilderness begins
dozens of boys gather where machines
made to conquer the snow sit idling
destined to take us places
not yet known


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

flash powder


what have I contributed
to the cause
keeping the music alive and
guarding elephants
from poachers

I’ve given up aerosol sprays
and gasoline
marlboro lights
store-bought soup
and religion

how much more do I have to give

that constant humming in my ear
is that just a warning from
my guardian angel
or simply a reminder
how those widely admired
can easily be swept away
like a night owl’s prey
silently screaming

absolution doesn’t exist
in the blink of an eye
and even if it did
no act of contrition could
prevent anyone from
seeing the light


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

Walking for Justice for All


Born in a veil of freedom
I walk through the streets
of Birmingham
holding my head high
gazing into the whites of the eyes
of faceless people
fading into unforgotten crowds
cheering and jeering and
throwing insults at my ancestry
at a time when vengeance
superseded facts
and justice was unleashed
without due process


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

triangles in her eyes


the sails in this watercolor look
like albino shark fins
she said while stretching her
neck to one side

the whitecaps are amazing
she went on to say
they’re perfect equilaterals
one rolling into the next
below the prismatic horizon

she stared at the painting
for another minute
dabbing at her eyes before
reaching out for my hand

what’s the matter I asked her

I’m bored to death she said
we’ve got to get out of this place


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

all alone inside the big house


I woke up to what sounded like
faint laughter coming from the living room

of course I could have been dreaming

I lay in the dark fully awake and surprisingly
at ease
just waiting to hear more laughter

the blinds were drawn but I knew damn well
it was still cold and dark outside

I looked at my wrist watch and wondered
if it had snowed

and then suddenly
the laughter came again
this time livelier and from multiple sources
much louder than the laughter
that had initially stirred me

(the big house makes many sounds anymore
now that I am the only one left)

I wondered if they had found the goods
stashed inside the walls
and false ceiling
wondered if they had found the mind-altering
substances that left me paralyzed
and perfectly at peace


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

one step closer to the sun


maybe gasoline is so cheap
because it’s disgusting
and everyone’s had enough of
smoke and (sideview) mirrors
totally fed up with the oil wars
and those big machines
tearing into the earth

when the economy nearly died
a few years back
and gas prices
ripped wallets and families apart
I threw up my arms
and grew out my hair and beard
and bought a one-way ticket
to the land of confusion


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

In Search of Clues in Phoenix


In the sink there is a teacup
half filled with water
while on the drying rack
there is a perfect match
upside down and clean

I understand twenty questions
is just a game
but so is jenga and jacks
each requiring simple dexterity
and a playing partner

When you didn’t show up
I figured I’d gotten it wrong
but when rechecking the facts
discovered my recordkeeping
perhaps was incomplete

Like a child raising his hand
dying to answer the question
I become void of thought
incapable of speech
when called upon

Blindly crawling in the dark
I shift through ashes
of bones and feathers
sniffing for that elusive spark
certain to bring you back


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

four season poetry


in the unpredictable spring
the poet writes of rain and birth
welcoming freshness
unfolding everywhere

in the hot summer sun the poet
writes of sweat and stifling heat
lemonade and iced tea
and the faraway sounds
of the ice cream van

when autumn approaches and
death is sure to follow
the poet writes of impending doom
and desperate days to come

but when winter arrives
and sub-zero temperatures set in
the poet remains silent
except when northern winds
or black bird wings
bring back to life
backyard metal chimes


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

outside it was stone cold


there were photographs
everywhere
plastered against the living
room walls

the place was a mess

there were old newspapers
and magazines
on the coffee table
and end tables
some of them cut up and
some of them barely touched

the place smelled of coffee and
cigarettes and kitty litter

some of the photographs
on the walls
had been scribbled on with blue
thin-tipped sharpies
scribbled with dates
and names
and emoticons
and many many question marks

outside it was stone cold

deep down inside
the photographs
were the only sane things
that kept a hopeful tomorrow alive


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

anyone other than me


I could have been a taxi driver
picking up musicians from
Carnegie Hall

I could have been flipping a coin
dressed in zebra stripes
standing at the fifty-yard line on
Super Bowl Sunday

or just as easily stranded in Iowa City
waiting in line at Hamburg Inn No. 2

I could have been slam dunking
donuts into black coffee in
New York City like some beat cop
on Sunday morning

I could have been that priest
in the Exorcist novel
placing my hands on a child
and my faith in the Lord

I could have been a medic
or a mystic or a miracle worker
trapped inside any given war
these past thousands of years

or I could have been a starving child
looking for someone
like myself
to save me


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

stealing diamonds from the virtual sky


information flows freely
between these so-called
chinese firewalls
where there isn’t much anyone
can actually do about it

they put up some drapes
heavy as sleeping bags
across the front bay window
making it impossible for the sun
to shine through
though somehow moonlight
sometimes leaked in

in the first lower level
there was a darkroom where on
weekends amateur photographers
gathered to develop
black and white mineral mines
pushing them out undetected
into the secondary marketplace

in the second lower level
there was the infamous wine cellar
where on any given sunday
you could enjoy the rarest of merlot
picking out the oldest of stones
at your leisure

the local police carried no search
warrant as they came
crashing in on horseback
shooting first and asking
questions next
long after the webmaster
and his virtual entourage
slipped past the gate


january two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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