"American Haiku from the River and a Title Near the End," "UPTOWN : UNTITLED," and "The Four A.M. Shift"

American Haiku from the River and a Title Near the End

          for Lucinda Williams



I saw Frank Stanford down by the river
He told me the Devil was in my liver

A snail has been stuck on our front door for weeks.
Heavy rain came pouring down last night

— opening the door in the morning a snail slimes away.

I saw Frank Stanford down by the river
He told me brightly she was a giver

Small brown bird with mouthful of twigs lands on bush.
I sit in porch chair, smoking, drinking, and watching the bird

— it looks at me and says, “Build your own, dude.”

I saw Frank Stanford down by the river
He held a flower and did not shiver

The possum came out of nowhere in the middle of the night.
It walked across our garden and stuck its nose in an empty vase

— I took multiple photos. It didn’t look my way once.


Late Afternoon Shadows and Other Observations


I was planning on coming home after work with my cold 12-pack
To watch some porn all alone, but the wife never left for the day

 — I got over my frustration, and did laundry instead.

The snails move a little faster than the tree grows
In which they live in and on its branches

[[[ Big Dipper rollercoaster screams and Pacific waves crashing! ]]]

Robert Louis Stevenson’s ghost and when we are kidnapped
By Monarch butterflies in Pacific Grove forming a superorganism

The birds sing a busy song that disguises the grass snake’s smooth crawl
Along the levee and by your stupid feet in this concert of going “home”

The dead estuary duck far from the river and on the hard neighborhood street looked like
A drunk with its head and beak up on the sidewalk and its body on the curb in the street

Its black, white and yellow coloring still held life even with its dead silence

I continued my walk home wishing I could’ve done something or thinking I should’ve
Wrapped the body up in a blanket and thrown it in the dumpster behind the apartment

Wishing I could fly

Healing with the Monterrey Bay
Peaceful paisanos jug their wine

The orphan is deep as the river and long as the levee

The river doesn’t know it just flows

I saw Frank Stanford down by the river
He said it was time for dinner

A squirrel dips its head into the vase to sip water with its beady black eye on me:

from one animal to another, I close my eyes to let it know, it’s okay…

Okra, sorghum, grits, pan-fried chicken, & a fiat lux lullaby

“When Daddy told me what happened, I couldn’t believe what he had just said.”


[Pineola plays softly]


The \’krüs\ Creature

The ducks the ducks

What the fuck!?

They quack and quack

And no good luck

The ducks the ducks


The birds the birds

The birds singing and ringing

They remind me to sing, whistle, and dance


If you leave the door open the bugs come in and then it’s you and them


Help is just one letter away from Hell


The sunshine on my dick feels so strange

Scratching the mystery


((( la musa once )))


Along the San Lorenzo River, Santa Cruz, California, Spring, 2015





I saw Frank Lima in Central Park.

It was August, so it smelled like:

Horseshit; hot dogs w/ sauerkraut;
Bridal Path dirt; sun burnt leaves;
Reservoir water and Italian Ice.

It started to softly rain.

He was walking around the perimeter of the Sheep’s Meadow
Peddling fragrant sticky Mexican ganja.

This is when ganja was still highly illegal.

For I had learned at 17 yrs-old after spending several nights in jail
By the Brooklyn Bridge after scoring some in Greenwich Village.

But, that didn’t stop me as I bought three dime bags
From Frank Lima and then brought them home to 14 East 90th Street.

Where I smoked all of them up and then had some coffee ice cream
While watching surreal sonnets of the Twilight Zone on CH 11



The Four A.M. Shift


I wake in the dead morning
To cat poop on the floor

There’s a possum in the street

Coffee under a black sky

Lampposts glowing on the bridge
I walk to work each morning

Low tide estuary below
In the river by the sea

Coyote on sandbar

A before dawn forecast
The orange stray cat wallows

Now I’m walking the levee
Amongst meth head zombies

When a raccoon reminds me
To keep my hand on my knife.



Jonathan Hayes

Jonathan Hayes lives in Oakland, California with his wife and their cat, and publishes the long-running American literary journal Over the Transom. His most recent publication is the chapbook Purposeful Accident (Holy&intoxicated, England, 2022). He recommends visiting the Black Panther Party Museum.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 00:17