Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Jose Padua: Helltown

Back in the familiar wilderness

of tattoo parlors and auto parts

stores, the cheap motels where

there’s always a vacancy, the streets

so dry and sunny you can almost feel

the dirt and grime with your eyes

when you blink, and the teenagers

with their stained shirts and the random

fucks and shits and blow jobs that spill

from their mouths as a substitute for

speech. It’s the quiet boredom of the

normal, non-existential, nothingness

that kills them, that kills me. The boy

who’s the scared misfit with a lisp

and gawking eyes when he talks to us,

when he asks us questions, turns down

the corners of his mouth, squints his eyes

even in the shade and says nothing as he

looks to the ground in an effort to fit in

with the fucks and shits and blow jobs.

This is not bravery nor is it cowardice,

this is neither infamy nor avarice, but

might there be a word for it other than

survival? A sense of accomplishment,

more and other, than that of being alive?

So I look at them looking at me, wide-eyed

like first rides on a roller coaster, thirsty

like summer afternoons with no prospects,

their arms by their sides, their hands empty;

because what tears us down creates us,

and what we tear down creates the stones

we throw, each morning, into the dirty

winding river, ready to shine, ready

to walk the jagged gravel road home.


Copyright 2017 Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

2 comments on “Jose Padua: Helltown

  1. Leo
    December 21, 2018

    Beautiful and affecting…sometimes i see a stranger in a crowd, usually a youth, as described, and I feel a twinge akin to dread…a fear of what he might become; what life has done to him already and what he might do to himself or to others. Our own experiences, of course, stain our perceptions of others. What can we really know? Can’t wait till his book is available; already ordered!

    Liked by 2 people

    • shenandoahbreakdown
      December 22, 2018

      Thank you, Leo! I do often find myself considering the whole lives of those I know only briefly or through the slimmest of connections, and marveling at how much there is in the world that I can never fully know.

      Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on December 20, 2018 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , .

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