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poetry by j matthew waters

Archive for the tag “war poem”

A million miles from home


Elton John’s ‘Daniel’ streams through my
car speakers
as if it’s 1973
quickly reminding me
I am not old enough to drive

Daniel my brother
everyone knows
you just want to shake loose those
lights and cameras
shadowing you through the fields

Word has it you have returned
home
(yet again from battle)
attempting to dissolve into the
fabric of some small Texas town
one of which children google
all the way from Afghanistan

To me Daniel
you can never get away
you are stuck inside some song
like some reluctant cosmonaut
seeking inner peace



april two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

apache helicopter down


the helicopter crashed on the side
of a hill on a sheep farm

the sheepdog was the first to arrive
followed by the sheep themselves
and finally the shepherd

the dog sniffed all the way around
the main part of the mangled mess
marking it here and there for good measure

most of the sheep vied for position
for a look-see in the cockpit
but it was vacant

“they must have jumped out before
it crashed” the shepherd murmured
under his raspy breath

there they stood on the hill
the shepherd scratching his head
and the sheepdog licking his balls
the sheep themselves looking
down at the village where the
peaceful inhabitants once lived



february two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

forgotten fragments inside virtual minefields


do you even know anymore
exactly who you are
or do parts of you disappear
or change into something else
entirely
day after day after day

there was a time
when life wasn’t too complicated
but those days are long gone
and you are left wondering
who is pushing what buttons
and when for god’s sake is it going
to be your turn

people arrive and move on in your life
like clockwork
sometimes they reappear years later
and you are left wondering
what that is all about
and just like clockwork
those in power change hands
and the wars already in motion
suddenly change course
while others begin out of nothing

and if you stick around long enough
you will see friends become enemies
only to become friends again

but wars don’t seem to bother you
but obviously they bother those
thrown in the crossfire
destined to feel the pain you can
no longer feel
sitting somewhere in the dark
motionless
pondering mundane questions
about your mundane life
about those little pieces
that used to belong to you
but have disappeared
or changed into something else
entirely



february two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

(forty-five seconds ‘til sunset)


there were birthday bashes
and wedding plans
happy anniversaries
and simple cocktail parties

(released from the atmosphere
sounds of near sonic speeds
accelerate)

there were candles burning
and balloons suspended on the ceiling
teenagers smoking secretly
and babies stirring in bassinets

(precise targets become isolated and
confirmed via encrypted
airwaves)

children in paper hats chase tails
and girls in summer dresses walk on by
there were flowers abloom in the garden
and water fountains making rainbows

(suddenly a fiery crash
turned into an expanding billowy shroud
erasing all of reality in specific vicinities
instantly)



january two thousand seventeen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

before the honeymoon


the war ended the day
before the winter solstice
and on the next day
on sunday morning
the newspaper arrived
without fanfare

the blizzard never came
as predicted
and the parade downtown
well
it was canceled

a few of us decided
to meet at a tavern
in the old town district
sampling for the very first time
local craft beers
and delicata squash

when the sun went down
we went our separate ways
like we had always done



december 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

resetting the calendar to zero


this world inside a world
is swelling and threatening
to burst open an entirely new
third order onto the scene

it’s easy to slip in and out
of the lesser world
fraught with deplorables
running exercises inside sewers
checking for daylight through
cracked concrete and faulty plugs

skyscrapers rise and fall
crashing and burning at
unrealistic velocity and power
potters and mad scientists
continuing to reconstruct

once this world inside a world
begets the new third order
there will be an unimaginable peace
only a few will come to understand



october two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

early out on a Friday afternoon


it’s past lunchtime on a Friday
and images from Aleppo are being
broadcast everywhere

from Berlin to Warsaw
Nagasaki to Kabul
Sarajevo to Beirut
Baghdad to Hanoi
from Paris to New York City

I’m sitting with a friend outside
a trendy cafe
watching the world go round
and round and round

inside the cafe televisions
hang in the balance
patrons shouting for the wars
to be turned off
exhaling a collective sigh of relief
once their demands are met

we switch from caffeine to craft beer
and talk sports and politics
of the latest intellectual documentaries
challenging today’s minds

and so I say I’ve been told how freedoms
throughout the world
have spread exponentially over the past century
despite public servants in certains places
attempting to reform the world’s inequalities
raising standards of living everywhere
creating economic prosperity
to anyone seeking a better way of life

but what of those dying to be seen
behind the television screens
what has happened to their freedoms
and their endless possibilities?


august two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

teenage decimation


these untold stories keep piling up
more than a few good men
wasting their lives on promises
that can’t possibly add up

big brother has never been scarier
whether on penny lane or haifa street

hey joseph
what are you doing
with that AK-47 in your hand

it’s friday night shouldn’t you be down
where the pretty ladies want
to see your smiling face

wouldn’t you rather be learning
how to make the world a brighter place
in a figurative sort of way

I once walked the streets of Athens
because I wanted to know what it was like
to walk in history’s shoes
but I’ll be damned
and dead by now
if I ever walked in yours


july two thousand sixteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

pomp and glorious circumstance


so I hear everything happens for a reason
which certainly includes my birth
a byproduct of an irish girl
and a self-determined misunderstood man

sure I got kicked around
but that was for my own good
degraded and humiliated and put in place
for no other reason than to be reminded
exactly who was in charge

but as the bible says a man must leave his mother
and cling to his dreams

but my dreams were awkwardly inconsistent
and so I ran away on god’s command
and became a soldier child
joining the ranks of the finest of misfits
who learn to forget they ever had a past
and learn to kill without thinking or feeling

out on the fringes there is no need
for marlboros or whiskey or california weed
there is only the desire to survive
by sipping on desert spring water
and feasting on exotic butterflies

and if you are fortunate enough
to die a violent death
there is an even better chance
you will find yourself adorned within
a field of the brightest wildflowers


december two thousand fifteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

a roadmap of revenge


we studied together
and recited psalms
years ago
when nobody knew your name

you kept mostly to yourself
reading scripture at night
and eschewing violence
while everyone else
danced beneath artificial lights

when the world fell apart
you slipped through the cracks
resurfacing deep inside a madness
that was nothing short of prophetic

years later I was called before
a makeshift court
forced to testify
how you had solely masterminded
a roadmap of revenge
leading to misery and destruction

what I had witnessed
would make no difference
not as long as you continued
stabbing westward
unseen and unafraid
daring an uncertain world to stop you


november two thousand fifteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

redecorating until kingdom come


while the queen contemplates how
her patterned walls need
whitewashing
explaining to her entourage
how the perfect splashes of color
and light
would make her world more perfect
the king orders in the
big bombers
turning pristine hills and dales
into a reclamation project
where little lambs wander
aimlessly
shepherdless
and bloody


october two thousand fifteen
copyright j matthew waters
all rights reserved

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