Five Poems by James Diaz

Motel Prayers

god, if i broke
would that make me one of yours,
or am i no ones kind?

just shadow boy in motel light
quivering from withdrawals
hurts to breathe

you put your lips to clay
why won’t you put your lips to me

if i were a leper
would you come then

cuz i’m dying
and the motel manager
says i’m outta here by tomorrow
and i got nowhere
and no one

i just want you to acknowledge how impossible it is to be human
that you invented the needle because you ran out of better ideas

i’m just waiting for that knock –
my heart is open…

It’s a beautiful world, after all

We’ll inherit the earth, but we don’t want it
It’s been ours since birth, what’cha doin’ on it?”

                   -Paul Westerberg

They would have us be
something worse than forgotten
never known

and the way they would tell it
is with words torn from long stretches of highway
exhaust sputtering motor mouths
outside of 7-Elevens
and circle K’s

excuse me
they’d say
having taken a wrong turn
paying for gas
with plastic
wives shushing the kids
in the back
of plush seats

I want to say
we were a field
under a feral open sky
how it’s only ever on the ground
that things are closed

anyone who has not received
100 stitches before they turn 18
is not to be trusted
to have your back
your blood your best interest in mind

we kids who stripped copper
from train and power lines
to pay for our prayer
it comes in chemicals
harvested by older brothers
who just got out
of a bad dream
a box where you could scream
all you want
and not be heard

It’s a beautiful world, after all
If you’re not paying attention

this is how they tell it
our own fault
Personal failing and all that

The thing is; there’s more need
Than want in this world
And the wanting kind
Seem to have come in on it somehow

The rest of us
They call us unlucky
Short end of the straw, man

It’s a good story, I guess,
If you can buy it.
I don’t.

Want to hear anymore
about it.

Domestic Blis-ters

No use singin’ sweetly
if the buck needs cleaning
and poetry is all wrong for this
I’ll dig a hole for the fence post
this is my day to day
rockabye rockabye
momma’s gonna buy you another pair of eyes
the wash is on the line
and my heart is wrung dry of beauty
dinner at eight
but in my bones I feel the tug
of a black sea I can’t sail
with flowers in my hair
it’s always dance hall Tuesday at the VFW
brown beer and neon signs two for one
still equals nothing special
lumber trucks belching black smoke
on the long shadow of the highway
I read poetry at the kitchen table
and cry so hard some nights it wakes the kids
put on a brave face
for the storms have their own path in this place
I’m only human and so so small underneath this mountain town
is there more than this
if so, it ain’t mine
maybe happiness is just thinking the bottle’s empty
and findin’ one more sweet sip
and putting it to your lips.

I don’t do memories

Until the light does me in

I will be here
in it
holding up
and on

thrown off that horse more times than not
there are no graceful landings
yet I am still standing

my father was like this too
had no clue what to do
but persisted

for years he climbed
ill prepared
that mountain
now he’s on his way down
there is something in that
even if the world won’t
I will
call it beautiful
call it strong

we don’t get to know the place
that will be ours
until we make it
and yes, others will constantly take it
and take it
in their small hands and shred
and shred

but not until we’re dead
is there no hope to be found
look around you
pick through the trash of it all
and there it is, glistening
some sacred heart / no half measures, not ever-
just the whole aching thing
calling through fields of night
and the busted moon says fight,
fight till you reach this place
and on your face
you’ll know it then
that your true work
was just to be
all along

holding on.

James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books, 2018) and All Things Beautiful Are Bent (Alien Buddha, 2021) as well as the founding editor of Anti-Heroin Chic. Their work has appeared in Yes Poetry, Cobra Mag, Rust + Moth and Cleaver Magazine. They currently live in upstate New York. Twitter: @Heroin_Chic_Mag

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