Michael Simms – Cup of Darkness

Simms LE P&W June 2024

Download PDF Here

Live Encounters Poetry & Writing June 2024.

Hookah Wink (Cup of Darkness), poems by Mcihael Simms.

Hookah Wink (Cup of Darkness)

I craved a cup of darkness
To smooth the mood
Untie the knot of my unrighteousness

So I stopped at the Church of the Golden Onion
Next to Gypsy Blood Tattoo and Rock Shop
Where glass pipes and hookahs wink
At the skanky junkie slumped at the cash register

Ah I thought one life at a time
Sat in a pew, opened the songbook and began to hum
The hymn of good intentions gone bad

The church is empty but full
A blue light coming through Maria’s robe
I lived halfway between pride and survival
A dumb fuck who couldn’t admit he’d gotten life wrong

I was in a situationship with God—if you know
Then you know, you know? But all I knew
I was circling the dunny, ready for the deep dive

When this woman’s voice came to me. It wasn’t Maria
Our Lady of Sorrows, Undoer of Knots
But Maria Salvatore who hung at the corner
Husking and busking to make a buck

Need a meeting? she asked knowing I didn’t know
But I did and we did and there we were
A little closer to getting through the night

Jubal Rising

Spider his momma calls him
Always spinning a tale
To make himself a hero

He hides a glizzy in his room
Little white street rat
He says mooma stay
Out of my zees you
Got no biz there fookin
With my shit so she

Slaps him so hard
His eyes bug and she says
Stop talking like a thug

She says you come from good
Folk who work hard she
Says I’ll die of worry you
My baby and you going
Down the wrong road

And he runs out the door
Into the trailerhood
Of crackistan a bag
Of white skunk for sale
To the zombie at the corner


The man hurts the boy because
He enjoys it
Can get away with it
The boy bullies smaller boys
And those boys hurt
The smallest boys who swallow
A burr of self-hatred that grows tangled
And dangerous in the unforgiving sun

The drunken grandmother whips the boy
For being a mistake
He carries through the world
And children beside the road
Throw rocks at the passing cares
As if nothing matters at all at all


Jubal Momma says
You don’t have to understand
Why the sun rises
Go about your chores
Noticing only
What’s in front of you
Wipe the dish dry like so
Knead the bread like so
Let the living yeast live
And die in the dark
Not knowing they
Feeding you
Sit at the table
With those you love
Let them be
The light you live by


Grab a dime bag of certainty
Cause the street lamp is an eye
Poked out / the better not
To see cash passed between
Self and self / ragged amen
For the chorus of young men
Hanging out the windows
Of passing beaters they borrowed
Cheering the hotties swaying
Down the sidewalk like
Well-fed cheetahs daring
The bangsters to try. Oh
They try awright. They bloody
Their noses trying. They say they
So high they never gonna die


Jubal pays attention
By not paying attention
Walking through the city haze
Far-fetched fantasia of broken
Brick and re-bar pointing toward heaven
As if all he sees is the smoking city
Of regret and all-out suicidal romps
In the bad neighborhood of his head-scape
Where drinking drugging scheming
Collide with the law of fast returns
Karma ketchup he calls it because
Every action boomerangs back atcha
Wherever he goes he’s there waiting
Ready to screw the pooch with lies
Deals and manipulations lined
Up from here to the jagged horizon
Of crack house nirvana. Let’s go
He says. Let’s do it. Let’s rise
Like steam from a broken pipe
Let’s be this frantic nightmare

Halfway Prayer

Jesus, I’m broken by anger
And need a fix of whatever
You have in your black bag
Of mysteries, holy magician
Of the forgotten, spectator
To the suffering that leads
Me to you. I need a trick
Of light that knocks me
To the asphalt, a summons
To the court of last appeal,
A bailiff who hauls my
Sorry ass in front of you,
Righteous judge of the quickening
Spirit, true witness to my
End and beginning.
Hey man of sorrows shining
Through the crack smoke
Don’t corkscrew me no more
My soul hurts but I can’t stop
Jerking off thinking of you,
Cringy lover, bunk mate
In this halfway house of the abyss
Show me how to rid myself
Of myself and begin again

© Michael Simms

North American writer Michael Simms is the author of three full-length collections of poetry published by Ragged Sky Press: American Ash, Nightjar, and Strange Meadowlark. Simms has also published speculative novels; Bicycles of the Gods and The Talon Trilogy. His poems have appeared in Poetry (Chicago), Poem-a-Day published by The Academy of American Poets and Plume Poetry. Simms is the founder/editor of Vox Populi, an online forum for poetry, politics and nature, as well as the founder/editor emeritus of Autumn House Press, a nonprofit publisher of books. Currently, he works as a peer counselor with recovering addicts in Pittsburgh’s Southside neighborhood.  In 2011, Simms was awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the Pennsylvania State Legislature for his service to the arts.

2 Replies to “Michael Simms – Cup of Darkness”

  1. Nice Michael,

    Recovery is a never ending word. Used to work on a detox and dual diagnosis unit until Covid disbanded it for an air vac system for the whole building.

    1. Thanks, Tim. I’ve been working with recovering addicts for almost 40 years. The drugs of choice have changed, but the disease and the steps of recovery remain the same.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.