Western Voices: James Diaz

James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books, 2018) and editor (along with Elisabeth Horan & Amy Alexander) of the anthology What Keeps us Here: Songs from The Other Side of Trauma (Anti-Heroin Chic Press, 2019). In 2016 he founded the online literary arts and music journal Anti-Heroin Chic to provide a platform for often unheard voices, including those struggling with addiction, mental illness and Prison/confinement. His most recent work can be found in Moonchild Magazine, Occulum, Drunk Monkeys, Yes, Poetry, and Thimble Literary Magazine. He resides in upstate New York, in between balanced rocks and horse farms. He has never believed in anything as strongly as he does the power of poetry to help heal a shattered life.  

Domestic Blis-ters 

I won't sing 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 only 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.

Laughter Loves The Company of Darkness

I woke 
and slipped 
through the break
in the river, 
the day I was born
a wail and a shock
that could not be shook
hungry, scared, wanting back in
to one knows not what
a body that walls out the light
cradles the wail, the want

I circled the prayer tree
with knobs of wheat 
mental pictures  
of what you must look like
dancing, bars along the interstate 
with names like the watering hole
and simmer down tavern
get on my knees 
but I can't remember the prayer
which word works for this
paint by numbers
the wilderness in a kiss
bee stung 
beneath rib cage
a candlelight prayer for nowhere 
I used to have the method
now I only have the madness

love is where you go to lose your mind 
in the alder bush
dogs bury their loot 
for the less fortunate to find
I am one of those tonight
without a home or clue 
of where I came from
who I belong to

once I was the compass 
now I am the break wall
the pressure cracks me open
and the ocean rises above me
I am such a small detail 
in your world-story
I am wood used for the fire
and the night is long
and the water is more than I know what to do with
I am wailing space and collapsing time
in my tiny hands 
I am loving you more
than a fault line loves the earth it separates 
in two, between the born and the dying 
I want back in, blind and without memory 
first taste of life a blank
a bleed, blotter of entry 
poised for the breaking.

Janis Joplin # 3

you seen me bend so low
I almost drank the stage
with my teeth, never once
thought of giving myself
over to the light, I closed
my eyes so f**kin' tight
cuz that's where
the high note lives
played it out on my skin
baby, I was the brightest thing burning 
but cried myself to sleep
at night, I wanted to be a boy
size eleven feet 
and a monster truck heart, 
eat this f**kin' town alive
with my blankety blank 
throat pulsing lizard king blues
I wasn't meant to be this Queenie 
burden of sadness, I come from mountains
way up yonder, bare foot tom boy
rippin' through the creek bed
and yelling at stars with my 
microphone heart 
on my sleeve
they called me magic 
but I was born that way
and let me tell ya; it f**kin' burns to be a shooting star
in a little woman's body.

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