Four Poems

by José M. Tirado


A number of things come to mind:
      That awful tenderness of the transient,
      ten drops of light that sparkle each rarely expressed smile,
      or the strange brightness of the day fog
      making brittle each momentary scene.

Along the base of the brown green mountains near Myrká,
      natural ziggurats face grimly determined valleys below,
      crags and hollows and stone trolls, too
      keep impassive lookout
      on the river as it slides past its inevitable trek to the
      polar waters downstream.

A raven’s caw sets the mood.
      The bleating sheep, sure-footed, curious,
      open a four-inch path in the loamy moss
      bending around this craggy rock:
      all face the hiding sun, pulled far back this season,
      through this cold gray mist
      that passes thick in Fall

washing slugs and blueberries both
      into the lava cracks where spiders make their greedy homes,
      webs dotted with cold pearl beads of aluminum shimmering water,
      then moving to meet the magnificent
      dark in the indigo sky bursting beyond.


Near the warm waters off Lampedusa,
I invited Mr. Bones to see,
cautious, investing himself with
stylized anger and beating his drums
he mournfully kept time,
sounding the rhythms
of these aching days we live in,
like the slowing down heart-beats of the
dying families now scattered on the sea floor, strewn about
like the refuse they were regarded as.

Bones saw the dead,
dream-floating amniotically, free
floating in their open water coffins,
free from all confinement now,
free, finally free!
(the occasional glare of horror on some frozen faces)
but most soft-gazing into Eternity, the permanence
they sought on their way across the warm waters
to Lampedusa.
still didn´t get it but
it didn´t matter,
nobody really did now &
nobody will tomorrow.
Trumpets won´t blow,
awards won´t be given,
speeches about the struggle for a better life
won´t be televised in their honor.
From water to water they went.
Near the warm waters off Lampedusa
civilization is dying,
hope is drowning, &
Mr. Bones is crying.


The walls kept them together,
In shared solitude
Each went boxer ready, to separate corners:
One old, one languid,
Never reaching their ring´s center,
Infected with its stale, sick smoky dense air,
Swallowing the living room and the downstairs closet &
Poisoning all between.
The bedroom was untouched (had been for years) &
A dull calm muted the tired complaints;
All fight sapped, bitterness to indifferent gray stone,
Hard, but not hostile, frozen in patterns of avoidance
& choked-off regret. Some news from afar occasionally seeped into the mix-
The kids travelling, perhaps, but
The television oozed its lifeblood listlessly to
The echoing nothing they still shared.
Bound together, ringed in daily dead silence
The two waited for dawn´s distractions, to begin circling again, wary
Of the burst one intruding memory might make,
Rupturing the tight agreement,
Unnamed in the present darkness.


The hearts of today´s shallow planted poets
      Beat paper thin between dusty tomes and fractured tenses;
            five bucks none did time,
or worked at Dead Bug Edwards
      waiting for Moses and J.C. to poison
            the tank before spraying citrus groves, tanked by noon.
Or washed dishes with Jamaican Sammy,
      then crumbled cole slaw cabbage, thumb to elbow,
            smeared in mayo, honey, and Black Angus belly laughs.
The chance some burned corneas staring at their
      first welding glow along the Miami River one summer,
            long sleeved and leather bib´d,
salty, humid drenched,
      and laden down at near 115° F,  already half-blinded by the bright sun
            is also doubted.
It is a given they took c-r-e-a-t-i-v-e w-r-i-t-i-n-g, instead.
      Insouciant summer breaks
            sunny lawns, summer artists, swaddled tight
in SPF 70 smears
      (Eco-Hedonism 101,)
            gingerly baked.
You must belong to something
      for the poem to find
            its true voice, a community of the raw, perhaps,
dirty if necessary,
      or, at least near where nods and grunts are seen as
            fruitful soil, watered in sweat.
There must live a rooted seed
      Time tended, through
            naked Earth first. No dabble cuts it, no dribble sings.
Our shallow planted poets touch words like small change
      not gifts, carrying sprightly the pain of overdrafted credit cards
            parents pay.
Few napped near scorpions hiding between sheet rock piles,
      framing tools, and
            John’s coke-stained phlegmy coughed up lung chunks,
deposited from 7am to 5pm, making cheetah skin stains of the once white
      cement we walked on.
            “It ain´t worth nothin´unless you sweat” he once said.
Few huddled with Helen & the street rats in the
      backs of tents soured by rain,
            soaked skin-deep, bumming damp cigarettes and
watching crowds cheer
      before sweeping off collected bleacher shit:
            dirt rags, diapers, Styrofoam stale hot dog clumps,
gobbled chaw spit, piss-wet saw dust:
      the general run of carnival crowd debris.
            It all can’t by itself form a poet but,
the poet can’t really form it either—
      it must be a shining burst before break is done
            on some gray planning sheet tossed to
the wind, caught among hot dry spars and dirt, scratched now,
      now then, a few times before
            rammed down town tight dusty jeans for later.
The poets there drank Coke
      for breakfast, blew bones for lunch, licked rolling paper
            through end to end before blowing
shotguns, lips near laughing lips
      in stoner circles,
            giggling sweet sinsé smoke then
carrying loads on burnt brown backs
      too stiff later to straighten before six.
            It’s not by accident laws tough down hard on
hard hats since, if not, we might all try to be poets
      And live shallow planted, satisfied
            poetic lives.

José M. Tirado is a Puertorican poet and political writer living in Hafnarfjorður, Iceland, known for its elves, “hidden people” and lava fields. His articles and poetry have been featured in CounterPunch, Cyrano´s Journal, The Galway Review, Dissident Voice, Op-Ed News, among others. He can be reached at


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