José M. Tirado – Five poems

Self pic on laptop222José 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


He crossed state lines to martyr himself
At her feet.
She knew quite well-enough
The stakes. He lingered
Ten minutes longer than expected
And her heart exploded in a frenzy of
Doorways and strangers who passed each other near dusk
Dying to be born. In consideration of his charms,
She opened the windows on her tower, letting in the soft
Cries of the local birds and some distant muzzein from the
City mosque. Soon, the light bent and dipped above them in a rainbow of
Stars and eternal distances.
On her night table was a photograph: a child kneeling in front of a hedge, in tears,
Nearby, a turned-over tricycle,
Behind them, a record store, and a gentle young woman bending
Over to console him.
“My son” she said with quiet pride.
He smiled and they exchanged gifts all night
To the lullaby of one sleeping boy´s
Intermittent snores, from across the hall.
The rain never tasted this sweet.


It was a brash maneuver-
Part of a task planned for long before the fall,
Almost gratuitous, even unto the details
About the girl.
She could be made to break him
They thought,
It´s only a fruit, after all.
The timing afterwards had to be checked, but
Overall, everyone agreed it would do.
When it was all over, in the evening,
The honey beer drunk, its syrupy film
Clinging to lips and cups, both,
The plates licked clean,
A few did wonder aloud if their gamble
Gave those who would follow
A real choice in the end, that,
Sometimes it might be better to let the stars
Draw their own trails.
The rest looked down timidly, but agreed to
Stick with the plan
Till the end.
There would be repercussions, either way.


I saw little in his face to convince me he was a threat;
Oh, that he persevered is beyond question,
He was still there after all, diligence paid off in the most
Mysterious ways, we thought. And his eyes
Bore some far away weight – this was not the extravagance of some
Typically ambitious  ‘King’ for sure,
No, that look, that weight, it was less for himself than
Well, us, for sure, but all of us it seemed.
When it was finished, and the witnesses moved
Quietly back to their dusty, simple lives
I watched the game of chance play out below him and,
as the bets were too low I offered to buy the scraps myself.
They just shrugged but said no with their wide stances and aggressive stares.
Years later, all I remembered was his look, pitying us, pitying me,
Even as I nailed his wrists to the wood.


Better than a mirror,
The time near the overlook
Reminded them of the camp that day long past,
A memory set in the wavy stone ridges of the mind.
Pensive about the responsibilities
Each gaze was met by another less measured,
Sometimes almost sinister one designed to
Shatter the calm before the necessary next.
No one could say if
The engines of Time would work
Or stall against her daughter:
The Darkness. It would end with the same hands,
The same struggles, the same blood, the same
Fishwife tenderness stored within the heart,
Instead of  a garden of prayer,
Which could save them,
Would save them, if only cultivated…
Otherwise, the battle lines were drawn
And the cactus in between, the only witness.

The reception at noon was
Never as good as the
Doormen assured them last evening.
Even here in the tower
Signals were crossed, power lines confused
By the racket nearby.
Steamboats, again, he thought, laughing to himself.
The whole tragedy was that no one
Was willing to create anything
No idea served up instead
Of eggs for breakfast
And death at lunch,
Would carry the day.
History´s arc would bend, alright,
Laying flat on top of them all,
Condemning the lot to a union
Of assassinated hopes and broken bodies.

Sweeping the fields
Wasn´t so easy and
Never meant to
Be traded off
For a straight-up fight.
People were people,
They said.
Of course, nobody is meant
To go home.
So it didn´t matter.
The bloody work
Needed doing and
He could, so he would.
His performance
Would ensure a
Brief reprieve-
The smokes, girls and
Candied booze
To last a day
Or two, and certainly
Would crowd out
The screams,
Until next time.


It seemed the twisting paths rolled more stately
Through today.
As if the quiet takes no notice of the sun´s
Mark in space.
Later, deep inside the park, sitting next to one
Lonicera Tatartica, alone,
Bestowing boons with its delicate
Nods in the wind, the sun now felt soft and warm,
The bench placidly set
Facing the pond with the majestic bees
Encircling the day with precision
And rumored kindness.

At noon, the Poet
Washed his hands with the
Waste of the day:
Small stumbles, grammar errors,
A lost smile, one sad presentiment,
Four contemplative images.
Instead of catching his breath
He choked on the metaphors
Which sweetly dangled over
The edge of his tongue.
The day would not disappoint.

Like shadows between whispers
The clouds blew in just before dark,
A chillier wind struggling to take charge.
Guests were now shawled and began to
Seek the cars near the park´s entrance.
The football field was emptied,
But remained enclosed within COKE and HUSASMIÐJAN signs.
The surly skateboarders stayed though,
Kept their caps on, sweaters off,
And faced the afternoon´s remnants
With gradual sweeps and crude English curses.

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