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poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the tag “poverty”

Welfare State


Hunger is painted on your face
and on all those
who look like you

There are others making do
with what they got
reaching deep in their
not so deep pockets for you

Time is not precious for those
living below the line
I used to tell my so-called
drinking buddies
but the best they could do
is drink to your health
on any given Sunday



april two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

running inside and out of poverty


the finish line is barely visible
a thin papered strip of memories
held in place by bookend angels
with nothing but time to burn

sometimes the light is further
than what side view mirrors can see
other times up front and flashing
like an ambulance called on the scene
its influence fading inside a
tunnel of diminishing returns
where mind and body separate
if only for a moment in time

innocent lives cast inside
neighborhoods mostly off limits
practice running and gunning
and killing lights that
one day were once inspiring


september two thousand fifteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

out on their own


you see them often from all kinds of angles
there right in front of you
real life people dying on real life stages
up close and in your face
in color and featured on screens of any size
delivered to the comfort of your own home
or wherever you may be roaming

though they may look like you
may have your eyes or nose or cheekbone
they don’t share your problems
their predicaments are nothing but a distraction
or occasionally interesting
like a saturday morning wildlife show
where all the creatures of the world
figure everything out on their own


march two thousand fifteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

all alleys lead to sand and saltwater


walking away from the sunset
shopping for the next place to sleep
eyes remain optimistic of a tomorrow
promising pay

all alleys in this pacific coast city
lead to sand and saltwater
along the way housing is made from
cardboard and wire and unfinished dreams

familiar hopeful faces
unite and welcome the wonders of the day
their hands busily preparing
to feed five thousand


august two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

The great virtue of compassion


I returned to earth as an underfed
infant in a remote village
where nurses are plenty
and painted-face doctors
routinely perform miracles

Years later my dying mother
begged me in a language
I barely understood
to escape the poverty this
barren land provided and
seek refuge in the golden city

As I traveled by foot from
desert town to desert town
visions of previous lives
entered my waking dreams
detailing how I had traveled
this road centuries ago
comforting all who hungered
by first feeding their minds


may two thousand fourteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

pocket jesus


i wandered the open market
looking for nothing in particular
when a young girl motioned me
from a little blue booth

she held out her hand
some sort of oval silver coin
placed on her palm

what is it i asked

it is yours she said

no it’s not mine i said
i’ve never seen this before

please take it she said
i want you to have it

i lifted the oval silver coin from her palm
and held it between my thumb and forefinger

with my other hand i reached into my shirt pocket
for my reading glasses

it’s a pocket jesus she said

yes i see that now i said
how much do you want for it

it’s priceless she said

as i left the open market
i could hear my pocket jesus
mingling with my american presidents
and i imagined what a lovely scheme
they must be cooking
to finish me off dead broke
but unafraid



march two thousand thirteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

the great slide


the older i get the less i know
and that is the only thing
i know for certain

i’ve become disconnected
with the political process
in this screwed up country
where we spend more time
kicking the can
down deficit lane
than trying to figure out
why most of us here
don’t want to be able to
feed our own faces

i heard the other day
the president wants some sort
of mandatory preschool program
put in place
so the little ones can take to task
and figure out why we continue
to get further behind china
who will one day no doubt
be pulling all the strings
dangling above our heads



february two thousand thirteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

twin loaves


i make meatloaf the way
my mother used to make it
except i do mine without the recipe
and sometimes i deviate
from the betty crocker original

it’s the best recipe on the
planet and i’m surprised
it doesn’t have the market cornered
or that you don’t hear about it
on the street or online

every time i make meatloaf
i declare it’s the best one
i’ve ever done – convinced i could
easily feed four thousand
with just two loaves



december two thousand twelve
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

this hunger


my gut tells me there’s
something missing – a pain
that won’t go away

i make-believe
there’s food in the cupboard
and scurry to get out
the paper plates and plastic forks

while enjoying the meal
i pretend it is my final one
and pray this hunger
will finally pass



december two thousand twelve
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

the system is broken


it’s always been that way
nothing about the past
is fair
and the future
will always be flawed

when you sit down
and wonder if things are moving
in the right direction
something hits you in the face
reminding you
the system always operates
with vital parts missing



october two thousand twelve
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

search warrant


she sat on the curb at twilight
stale tears etched on her cheeks
elbows on knees
fingers curled in
her knuckles keeping her face
from sinking even further

across the street police lights strobe
in a constant circle and remittent flash
the k9 sedan idling
its radio haltingly chatty
broadcasting to nobody
but the girl
and her neighbors
operating as passersby

twenty-four concrete steps
and a steel railing
scale the hill leading up to her house
where inside her daddy
is handcuffed and pinned to the wall
soon to be escorted
down the twenty-four steps
and past the curb
momentarily out
of her wretched life


click here for youtube video

october two thousand twelve
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

a world goes round


gravitational forces
make the world go round
geometrically perfect
and mathematically sound
innocently conceived
of violent explosions

woe are the children
born into a whirlwind
of poverty and starvation
whose land neither spins
nor revolves with beauty
or compassion or truth

sad is the soldier
dying in a battlefield
dark clouds circling above
the beauty of the world
just a passing idea
taught in a classroom

man and his machines
compete for dominance
racing across the skies
and testing mother nature
with all the tangible wealth
this blue jewel can muster



august two thousand twelve
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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