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JJ Hutton May 2022
When they started inching their way forward,
that row of men in deep blue, riot shields ready,
batons ready, I couldn't help but love them.
I was never narcissistic, at least not enough
to think I'd see the end of the world. But there
I was, corner of Bedlam and Squalor. Corinthian
columns eroded. Bars on the windows, but
I can assure you they didn't barricade the door.
The chant that carried us downtown, grew
heavy, dragged to a dirge. My heartbeat was my
brother's next to me. My song was my sister's
next to me. And the riot shields approached,
and I could appreciate how well they held a line.
There's a swell of panic from behind. One, two,
three children screamed. The rubber bullet, what
a marvelous concept. Tear gas, effective.
And the blurry men with blurry shields and blurry
batons broke from their line and rushed.
Love can be heavy.
I dominate.
I submit.
A baton crushed against my jaw and I found myself
on my back, looking up.
The chant was a dirge was a scream was a ringing
in my ears.
And I found myself on my back, looking up.
A news helicopter steadied in the sky.
The old men watching my blood run live were
my fathers.
The old women watching my blood run live were
glad not to be my mothers.
I know we disagree, I said, as they kicked my ribs.
I think we should disagree.
JJ Hutton Dec 2021
Julia, at her desk and on her telephone,
trapped in amber, an eye-open slumber.
The president shuffles past, talking quietly
with solemn men in muted storm cloud suits
and sunshined shoes. The board room fills
with tombstone grins, the bottom line
growing heavy, coming undone.
Julia, at her desk and staring at an
emerald fingernail reflection.
She's older now, the light dim.
She dreams of boulders,
of butchers, of bushy-haired
children running amuck
as the bottom line
bottoms out.
What do kids watch on Saturday mornings?
The president asks behind a closed door.
Kids today, someone says.
It wasn't this way when I was a kid, someone says.
I remember watching tv on Saturday mornings, someone says.
Julia, at her desk and covered in gasoline,
suspended in violent ideation as a motivational
quote hangs itself above her head.
About, aboard, above, we use to say in school,
the president says behind a closed door.
JJ Hutton Sep 2021
Champagne slacks, barn brown plaid patterned down
a watch that tells the time, the temperature (sunny and 75), and the number of suitors on read. The blouse is smart, the woman is mousey.
She tells and re-tells her employees the secret to success is listening. Between emails to accounts payable, she stares into middle distance, she pretends to stare into middle distance, she pretends to flashback, she flashes back for her team, her team watches her through the glass windows of her office, they're always watching. The floor plan is open. We should all be more open, she often says during interdepartmental collaboration meetings. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights she opens herself like a letter, while the blue glow from her phone lights her face, a concession, a weakness, but is it a weakness if it's scheduled? If it's ritual? And love is a powerful thing (if it's withheld). And empathy will take you far (if it's weaponized). And life is beautiful (from the corner office).
JJ Hutton Aug 2020
The morning, good; the morning, relentless—she tip-toes
out the front door in her ex-husband's brown patent leather shoes.
Outside. Walking again. On her own two feet but not in her own
two shoes. It's a Monday. It's an autumn. It's a neighborhood
with tricycles strewn in front lawns, with spent confetti in the
gutters, with Japanese trees, with Greek columns, with the reliable
sound of the working class commute in the distance. The shoes, four sizes too big, nearly slip as she half saunters, half staggers on
her way to the bakery on Bellevue. She's hungry for predetermined conversation, an exchange between a patron and a cashier. There's a young boy playing with a water hose. He waves enthusiastically. She matches it with a wave of her own as she passes by. The boy turns away, runs toward his home. She feels self-conscious and there's something in the pocket of her ex-husbands linen suit jacket, a bottle of cologne.

The door chimes as she walks into the bakery. The cashier says good morning before looking at her. The cashier's eyes quickly scan her and dart away. She's a child in her ex-husbands clothes. She orders a coffee. She asks for a Splenda packet. "I like my coffee like I like my women," she says. "Hot and artificially sweet." Pity laugh. Nervous laugh, maybe. It's not even her joke. He tells her the price. She hands him the money. Thank you. No, thank you.

She sits alone by a window. She's an alien doing normal people things. She's tired and whatever spark got her out the door may not get her home. A man seated at the table behind her sneezes once, twice, three times.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I think I'm allergic to your perfume."

"Me too," she says.
JJ Hutton Aug 2020
I've been watching the ants.
It's August and I sleep in the afternoons.
I'm single. I haven't showered in two days.
The smoke from the incense drifts.
I **** it down like a good myth.
And the ants are there, on my desk,
scurrying back to their homes
with a few bread crumbs in tow.
I talk to myself after lunch.
"Let me show you to your bed."
And I bury my head in the comforter
and the ants are feasting
and outside there's a pandemic
going on
and I read about a man with
a one-point-five million-dollar hospital bill
and I heard they've been sending
direct deposits to the dead
and something crawls along my leg
and how did nag champa become
the default incense
and I'm single and my heart is
curdled and my mom calls
to ask if I've found anyone to make it whole
but I tell her I better grab a
few winks--it is the late afternoon--
but before I go, how about an update?
My dad fought cancer last
winter and we didn't really
talk about it
and I kept thinking of the
word leisure
and everything got empty
and a little bit terrible
and a leisure suit is nothing, nothing
to be proud of,
and they gave my dad a numbered
chip and they let him ring a bell
and he said a few words
and I wanted to be there,
really there, you know?
But I knew it'd just be
a moment until the sun
got stranded on its way
to set, and I'd see my shadow
and burrow into this bed
with a nag champa halo
and a few mumbled words
to commemorate day 153 of quarantine.
JJ Hutton Jan 2020
You just sit there, right there, and watch.
I'll collect the debris, out of sight, out of
Mind your manners when I give you a piece of my
Mind scattered, adrift, wanting. You just want somebody to
Love yourself, above all things love
Yourself, get yourself a self-help book. You can't help
Yourself, in miss-matched socks, keeping regular office
Hours go by and the data won't enter itself. Nobody's
Perfect the ritual, the treadmill at lunch, the dry shampoo
Tears in the breakroom sink and loose lips sink
Ships anywhere in two business days, a total modern
Marvel at how a network television show can still make you
Cry freedom and throw half a brick through the
Window to your soul; in this moment, a penny for your
Thoughts shattered, amiss, stunting. You just need somebody to
Love me, above all things love me.
JJ Hutton Sep 2019
On our way home
rain along passenger windowpane
after party still stirring me, blurring me
our flesh melds leather
rolling stop gasoline haze
and your finger is in my mouth
adore you a dumb animal for you
over the railroad tracks
and you're vibrating,
I'm transforming, the steering
wheel spinning need you
supine and suggestive smoking
my vices,
the only things I'd give my
vices up are my vices
the sun can wait
the sun can obscure
dwell indulge imprison
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