Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
Josh Otto Jan 2012
In twenty-three years, the only smiles
That I have seen
Have been in photographs.
Even those were forced,
Clothes only worn for an occasion.
I was told,
"It hasn't always been like this,"
But I never had the gall
To ask for proof
Or why.
Then this picture,
Composed of scattered documents
And salt water, developed.
A woman stands impatiently by a door,
A product of a mother's wish
To showcase a new dress.
Her lips are curved up,
Healthy and smooth,
Not at all like the dried scales
Over which morphine was poured;
Her skin looks soft,
Not like the leather we held.
Something happened that last day:
Her maw moved into an unfamiliar shape.
It wasn't a smile,
But as her last breath slowly left,
She seemed relaxed.

And, perhaps, now, the corners of her mouth
Can, once again, grow upward.
Josh Otto Dec 2011
If my
Differing opinion
Is going to be
A problem,

Don't ask it.
Josh Otto Dec 2011
At three in the morning,
The mists hang, mixing
With the grass,
An unscaled rainforest,
Fog intertwined with the blades
Delicately, like the last puzzle piece
Being placed.
A flashlight shines on a snowflake--
The first of the season--
As it spirals slowly,
Slipping silently by stretched branches,
Stopping softly on the green.
The light shuts off,
A door lock clicks,
And a plume of black erupts
From a chimney.

These are the signs
Of a slow deterioration
Into what is expected to be.
Josh Otto Dec 2011
A leaf spirals downward,
Over covered heads and uncovered cars,
Children sleeping in grass
Drool dripping from their gums,
A football field seeing practice
Where someone's leg
Was recently snapped in half,
Overflowing sewer grates,
Dilapidated septic tanks,
Wastewater disposal facilities
With a runoff into
A river filled with needles and rocks
And bodies,
And it hits the ground with a silent explosion,
Until the wind sends it off and sets it somewhere out of sight.
Like when a glass bottle
Shatters on a bar top and
Sends shards soaring
Into the eyes
Of onlookers,
Everybody knows what's next.
Did you hear?
Fall is here.

The boy who starves so that he may be warm
And the girl who freezes so she may not starve
Have a chance encounter
And bask in mutual despondency.
They share their warmth,
And they share their food,
And neither has enough of either.

But even at their demise,
The sun still goes up and down
On the horizon,
Painting a scene of ignorance
Or apathy,
And lying.
The heat will dissipate soon,
What with Winter coming,
But it does not matter:
Everything is already frozen.
Josh Otto Dec 2011
I tried not to look at it,
But I couldn't help myself,
The blue sky burying me completely,
The sun shedding visibility
On the edible chanterelles--
Little fungi, little mold spores
Treated as food, soft and porous
Sponges, fragile like egg shells.
We hunt for the orange gleam
Showing through the duff
As if we are savages,
Lost in our search,
Forgetting our state.

I'd forgotten what a sight they were:
Unfunny clowns always having
Arguments over who gets what space--
Quality family time.
Every home is a miniature dictatorship.

Now, savages rule our thoughts
And actions; they fight
For control;  they
Pump Estrogen into our
System so that we
Will not fight back.
The dream is not a dream.
The Police are a privilege
For those who can buy it.

All this was a week after
The dust settled. There was no music.
Even the chants of Buddhists
Were silenced, the replacing hum
One of screams
And gunshots.
The sound of
Your enemies being sautéed
Is what loss truly is:
Accounts holding our Humanity
Have been depleted.
The only unclosed door
Leads to Egypt.

When I think of it now,
What I remember is
Debt. Once, I saw
A college student
Buying cheap ramen
With a grin.

And, in a dream once,
There was no sound,
No color. Everything
Was the same—taste,
Touch, smell. Red lipstick marks
On a shirt would not
Remain. And hippies,
With their tie-dye clothes
Were just working stiffs,
Looking out a window
To see
Brick and mortar.

They say,
“This is your police state.
This is your Haunted House,
Your personal Winchester House
With no exits. This is
Your nightmare,
Your stench.
These are your maggots in your eyes.
This is what you want.”
We listen.

I do not want to be
The kind of person
Who makes it okay
To want to die.
Josh Otto Dec 2011
When someone asks,
“What did you do today?”
I answer, with a smile,
“Lived,” because what can be more
Fulfilling than watching
Rain drops streak down a
Cheek of a lover pushing against
The wind in a limitless
Dance, or more
Satisfying than slipping into
A fleecy coat and boots and
Splashing down a stream in the
Woods, the damp trees dripping with
Greenery on the one who is kept so
Dry? And hearing a kettle as it
Steams and screeches, ready to
Drink after being poured over tea,
Coupled with butter and honey
Drizzled on toast, as the rain gently
Clangs on my tin windowsill
Reminds me of the time that the
Phone rang, and the woman on the line
Had to say, “We hoped it wouldn't be today,
But your Grandfather recently passed away,”
When it wasn't sky water that streaked my cheek
On a rainy day.
Josh Otto Dec 2011
The climb to the top of the rock is arduous.
Moss serves as a grip for hands
And ice for feet.
A low branch is like a rope for support,
Until it breaks.
Thistles and blackberries stretch out
To offer help,
But they can be uprooted, or become
The girl who flew across the country
To be with the boy who looks away
Whenever she smiles at him.

From the tip, the view is
The vantage point of a star
Gazing from space in all directions,
Where even the closest discernible landmark
Feels a few thousand miles away,
But you want it so desperately closer

That you jump.

Trust the rain that only falls enough that it sees fit.
Trust the fire that keeps fighting as long as there is fuel.
Trust the wind that whips your eyes,
Drying them and making you cry for rehydration,
For the water that roars all around you,
That splashes over your head
And lets you sink,
Freely and completely.
Next page