Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Poetry by John "Jackie" Ruzas

Mac Memory (A Salute to John MacKenzie)
By John Ruzas

There was a garden
A magical plot of color and scent
Hidden in a concrete tomb
That blessed the soul of man
With harmony and resolve
Its vines a source of sustenance
To bellies scraped clean
By decades of unholy intent

There was a river
Its waters clean and cool
A gift from our maker
To the garden and men
Who sought its nourishment
In the tomb

There was tree
Strong and tall its roots
Cable like with leaf filled
Branches that provided
Oxygen and protection
To men who suffered
The landlord’s will

There was a man
So like,
The garden,
The river,
The tree.

Easy To Kill
By John Ruzas

The door,
I can see its molding if I scrunch in the
left corner of my cell
and peer through the bars to my right.
Each morning I awake
one day closer to death.
The prison priest, a sometime visitor,
his manner warm, asks
“How are you today? Anything I can do for you, son?”
“Is it just that I’m so easy to kill, Father?”
His face a blank, he walks away.
Play my life back on this death cell wall,
I wish to see my first wrong step.
To those who want to take my life,
show me where I first began to lose it.

Cold Hard Time
By John Ruzas

If I could sing a love song
That would reach you in the night
It would stroke the tissue of your heart
And bring you to my side.

If I could write sweet poetry
So the whole wide world could see
How the love light shining in your eyes
Reflects on only me.

But I’ve been doing cold hard time
And the stars I never see
And this prison cell don’t treat me well
Or bring your love to me
(Repeat replace “But” with “Yes”)

That night you begged me not to go
But I hit the outlaw road
For the hi-jack of that laptop rig
Then a fence to dump the load.

Come each lonely night I’d close my eyes
And you’d suddenly appear
In the court room of that dusty town
You’d smile and wipe a tear.

It’s then I’d feel this cold hard time
Blocking stars I used to see
And the hell inside this prison cell
That kept your love from me.
(Repeat and add “Yeah” before “It’s”)

Years were followed by more years
And three decades marked my time
Politicians used me as a pawn
No parole befit my crime.

So I learned the ins and outs of law
And a pen became my sword
With the power of the written word
Plus a blessing from the Lord.

I began to conquer cold hard time
And each night more stars I’d see,
With your precious love and the Lord above
In my cell I still felt free

I know that I’ll be coming home
When the state says time is up
And I’ll take you in my anxious arms
And I’ll fill your loving cup

Together we’ll lie side by side
And I’ll promise not to roam
And no sassy eyes with honey lies
Will keep me from our home.

‘Cause I’ll remember cold hard times
When the stars all hid from me
And that prison cell that gave me hell
And kept your love from me.

The music to accompany ‘Cold Hard Time’ can be found HERE


Jack in the Box
By John Ruzas

I walk twelve steps wall to wall
Bouncing thoughts about like handballs in play
Counting butts on the floor from convict lips
While the wall speaker blasts oldies.

“Nowhere to run baby … nowhere to hide …”
Sang Martha and the Vandellas
Whose timing and lyrics wrap around me
Like a custom made suit.

With a mix of attitude and shuffle
I boogie to the beat
Until a visitor appears above
A leaf.

Through the rectangle grating above
The breeze propels an autumn leaf
Caught in a current of
To n’ fro syncopation it touched ground.

Thinking it foolish to break into prison
I carefully lift it aloft and
Offer salute as the breeze
Carries it free.

My Brother’s Keeper
By John Ruzas

He stood bent at the waist
Leaning into the fire
Shuffling right foot to left as
Winter’s night wind attacked
His body underserved by
The old grey hoodie and sweatpants.

Fire flickered above the rim
Of the oil drum stove
Licking the bottom of the dented coffee pot
Providing a glimpse of his
Troubled yet defiant face
That spoke of hardship, of “Nam”.

My approach was met with silence
Then a gravel voice said,
“Coffee’s hot, wanna cup?”
His offer warmed me but I decline
While traffic rolled above us on the Queensboro Bridge
In the world’s richest city
I slipped him a paper Lincoln
Then hailed a cab.

John Ruzas, NYC, 1977

Ode to Paddy Flynn
By John Ruzas

There was a Rock,
Anchored to the earth
By principles of a distant past
Its countenance chisled by
Seasons of discord weathered
Life’s storms so unforgiving.

There was a River,
Its current ran silent ran deep
Over concrete paths of twists
Of turns that carved its passing
In the hearts of men
Who needed drink.

There was a Tree,
In a forest of saplings
Tall and human it stood
Providing shade to weary hikers
Its woven cable root nourished
Branches bent but never broke.

There was a Man,
So like,
The Rock,
The River,
The Tree.
(After 29 years in prison, The Rock, The River, The Tree met the cowards bullet.)

Can Ya Dig It?
By John Ruzas

Sanborn’s sax
Coasts, riffs, then peaks
Over storm tossed waves
Crashing fingers
Mirror kinetic display
Crawls up crawls down my spine
The tickling intimacy of
Musical notes
Carry me to Birdland
The Blue Note and
Billips hemp cellar
Where young lungs puffed and
Fell in love with
Lady Day.
Flat on my back
I reminisce
As a roach scats through
My cell bars to freedom.
Copyright John Ruzas, 1993, Comstock

Borinqua Soy en Nueva York
By John Ruzas

(In Memory of Papo Ramos)

Big concrete monstruo rises from the water
The sun’s reflection glistens off plate glass eyes
That look upon streets full of taxis, tears,
And people who never sleep.
I am not angry that you tried to grind me up
Another borinqua for your belly
A salsa salad of the Latino poor
Gobbled as they climbed from the sea
With dreams stuffed in ragbags
Long before los brazos de mi madre
Carried me from Ponce to Spanish Harlem.
I cursed you, I feared you, but
Poco a poco I grew to understand you.

From the cities and hillsides of Puerto Rico
We came as citizens of the U.S. via Spain’s defeat
We brought our sons and daughters, religions and lore,
Our pastels and pirogue, our congas and Timbales
Our Puente, Colon and Iris Chacon,
Our rhythm to Manhattan Centre, our commerce to La Marketa
Our parade to 5th Avenue, our tempo to your streets,
Our pasando por vida that Latinas bonita
Shared with me on my 110th St roof.

But your faces were many and inconsistent
You would open a door but close another
Testing, always testing who would survive
Your tenements with broken plumbing,
Schools of broken promise, barrios of broken dreams,
Slum-lords never broke and never present,
Your employers, storeowners and police, hostile
Toward our Latin tongue.
The warfare with blancos on the East Side, morenos
On the West, with time-out for tecata’s knife in de Corazon.
And your winter’s Madre de Dios, your cold cruel
Winters I would curse until the April sun
Melted the ice on my cojones.

Coño! This Latin from Manhattan has
Answered every challenge, accomplished every task,
Taken advantage of opportunities that ebbed and flowed
Like the rivers that travel your borders.
And should I die mañana, I’ll leave a legacy of
Higos and hijas that bear my name and my blood.
Buildings and bodegas that bear my name and my sweat.
Amigos and amigas that honour my name and friendship.
And a monstruo grande de hormigon that
Poco a poco understood me.

Sing-Sing 20,000 A.D.
By John Ruzas

The black hole of life
Where dwells the beast
In dung stained cages
Echoes through the night
Sickened sounds of wailing souls
That stab at their existence.

Shit thrown missiles degrade
The name of Man
In tragic Comedy
While cell gangsters bark
With little bite behind
Their gates that never open.

The watchful eye of the Keeper
Drips piss from the
Kidney of the Kept
While the Goon Squad rolls
With hands on clubs
And minds on pensions.

Back and forth from
Bars to bowl I walk
This treadmill while
Zoo-like clamour travels
Uninvited through waterlogged
Toilet paper earplugs.

Head on my pillow
I stare at the ceiling
Above my head
Through layers of paint
Initials appear scraped in a heart

I smile and acknowledge,
A human once was here.

Copyright Jackie Ruzas, Sing-Sing 1995

John Ruzas 75-CO385
Fishkill Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 1245
Beacon, NY 12508

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