2 poems | J.P. Herrera

open mic
it was a day
I went out on
and there was this sad, stupid white woman

and she said she was a poet and told us to go to her
because she was a poet

and then she read some poetry about a whale
but it wasn’t that good
so she told us again that she was a poet
and the crowd sunk in their chairs
waiting for the next reader
and suddenly I felt a certain camaraderie
with them

I just came because I wanted to read. I read a new
story and the crowd loved it by default which upset me.
this was not a good night for poetry or prose.

I drove home, saddened that the other readers didn’t put up
much of a fight. When I got home
I brushed my teeth.
I looked at the brush

It doesn’t matter if the toothpaste is blue, green
or a creamy white, it always ends up red in my mouth.
I’m one bad tooth away
from having the worst oral hygiene of the 1st world

lying in bed
thinking of sin
and what I would have for breakfast
tomorrow. Enough time had been wasted reflecting
on a rapidly expiring
blip in time

In a few hours, no one will even remember today

legacy of suffering
i work at this Japanese fusion/bistro/grill with
every artistic fountain
at the entrance

and asian pretty boys
in black dress shirts
who tease me with their savage, eastern faces
whenever they walk into the kitchen

but then I heard the cutest one
complain about how I stacked the cups
and it killed my jungle fever

nobody knows I’m gay
I’m just the dishwasher

the cooks are all white, which is new in my experience
judging by their teeth
they spend half their paychecks on crack

I have a white guy who keeps me from fucking up
sometimes. he’s been working here a year
and we relate about the small things exclusive about
our job
like cut fingers
and hot water
and soap shot in our eye

my boss is one of many scathingly-cold asian stereotypes

she’s cut so many corners, there’s none left. it’s a sphere
of irregulation.

we have these leaves for sushi and I have to wash them
and soak them
in dirty dishwater

I asked my supervisor
if that was sanitary, and he said
“I just work here.”

I laughed. it was a very human moment
that’s fucked up, but this is my first job
in two years and I’m not the health inspector

you could be stomping babies out back
and I would not give a dick or a dollar
as long as everyone in this kitchen gets paid
and I can come home and masturbate before bed

you know you’ve worked a hard day
when you come home
too tired to masturbate

and the spiders won’t even bite you
you look so dead

being poor and finally having a job
I’ve cleared a hurdle
and I should be happy.
I was

but, now I’ve got new shit
to deal with like
and co-workers
and sexual harassment policies
and water so hot
it makes your skin scream

you come out with all your fingers
but you remember what you learned from previous
days of hell

sometimes, they just let you live in order for you to
continue the legacy of suffering


J.P. Herrera doesn’t like bios, but here’s one, anyway. He lives in a house and has been published in places you’ve probably never heard of. That’s not some hipster barb, it’s just a commentary on the state of the shrinking lit-scene in America. J.P. lives in a house in Santa Clarita, CA, a city vapid and duplicitously-clean. If he can escape from it’s negative energy for one night, he spends it performing his poetry all over Southern California. He likes the face to face. He likes teeth.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.