Some sunsets come at midnight, others come at noon. And some give cities a golden heaven-sent hue.

FROM THE VAULT: Wil Gibson - “Stories” (NPS 2015)

Performing for Humboldt County during prelims at the 2015 National Poetry Slam. Subscribe to Button on YouTube! 

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If war is holy,
And sex is obscene,
Then we got it twisted,
In this lucid dream.

Baptized in boundaries,
Schooled in sin,
Divided by difference,
Sexuality and skin.

So we can fear each other,
And hate each other,
We can break these walls,
We can build these walls,
Between each other baby.

Keep yourself locked,
Yourself locked.

Or maybe we could love somebody,
Maybe we could care a little more,
Maybe we could love somebody,
Instead of polishing the bombs of Holy War.

—  A poem by Alicia Keys in honor of the 53rd Anniversary of Martin Lither King Jr.’s speech, “I Have A Dream” (MTV VMAs 2016)

If Jim Morrison were still alive today
he’d be fat and bald and singing Katy Perry songs in Vegas
You know he would
and Janis would be a host on the View
hangin’ out with Whoopie and bowing down
in slavish sycophancy
at the altar of Kanye and Kim
You know she would
And John Lennon would be side to side with Dylan
pimpin’ Super Bowl Chevrolets
with the desiccated dregs
of their fading talent and fame
You know they would

I mean, the past is not pristine
We look back, again and again
through rose colored glasses
at the generations past and like to think
that they were pure and clean and tidy
but come on now, take a cold, hard look
they were a mess
they were a laughingstock
they were a disaster
just like you
just like me
just like all of us
take a look at the person to your right
they’re a disaster
take a look at the person to your left
they’re a disaster
now take a look in the mirror
what do you see?
a disaster, that’s what you see
but when you and me and everyone you know
are dead and gone and in our graves
we’ll all be remembered
as angels and superstars
you know we will

‘Cause everything looks better in hindsight
but the past is not pristine
the past was not simple and easy
or straight black and white
and contrary to popular opinion
there were no good ol’ days
of chocolate malts and apple pie
of small towns and honest morals
of family and friends and the good life, right there
within everyone’s reach
there were no good ol’ days at all

When you say,
“Let’s go back
to the good ol’ days.”
Do you mean the good ol’ days
when marriage was sacred
between one man and one woman?
when the Mexicans stayed in Mexico
and left the good ol’ US of A to us?
when women knew their place
was in the kitchen
or in the bedroom
on their knees?
when colored folk were free to choose
between staying on the farm
or hangin’ from a tree?
Is that what you mean when you say,
“Let’s go back
to the good ol’ days.”?
‘Cause those good ol’ days
may have been good
for rich
but they weren’t so fuckin’ hot
for anybody else

You see, the past is not pristine
for African-Americans or lesbian-Americans
for Mexican-Americans or Guatemalan-Americans
it’s not pristine
for impoverished Americans or transgender-Americans
for atheist-Americans or Muslim-Americans

The past is not pristine
and if you’re still able to examine our history
and see tended gardens and sparkling cobblestone streets
then maybe you should look at your hands
because the dirt has got to go somewhere
doesn’t it?

No one ever saw my bruises because no one ever saw my body.

Yesika Salgado - “Compilation”

Performing at Art Share LA. Subscribe to Button on YouTube!

Want to be on Button? Submit your poems to our chapbook contest! Winner receives publication, $500, fifty free author copies, and an invitation to perform at a Button Poetry event and be filmed by Button. Not sure about a full chapbook? We’ve launched our first-ever video contest as well! You even can (and should!) submit to both! Check out all the details here.


Drake does spoken word poetry

i used to be sad all the time but now im just so fucking angry. im angry that im up until three in the morning every single day with the thought of you stuck on replay because no matter how many times i try to shatter the record, my record player has your voice memorized and you are all i can hear in the quiet of my room and you are haunting me and you’re not even a fucking a ghost and i am so tired of being haunted by the living. i am angry because every song is about you. every song brings me back to you and reminds me of your eyes or your voice or your laugh and how it was a melody to my ears, how it was the thing that soothed me on my darkest nights and how now, i am implacable and my music is so loud all i can hear is the song that’s playing but between songs your name slips in and it kills me. im so angry that you slipped away from me. no. you didn’t slip away because i held you so tight and you pried my fingers away from your ribs and you pushed me away without any hint of goodbye and im so angry that i let it happen again. because i thought this time, you’d be the one who stayed but again, someone has left me. and i was convinced that i was finally locked down but you keep getting in and i know it’s my fault because i cannot stop leaving the key under my “welcome home” matt and i know nothing is inviting about letting ghosts of past lovers inside of your very own house but jesus fuck this is the only way i can get by without suffocating and choking up my lungs and im afraid that bullet holes were never just scratch the surface wounds because i have a war zone in my head and the bullets keep grazing my chest and there is nothing romantic about the way you force me to swallow gun powder because now i am a ticking time bomb and you convinced me it would save me but i am afraid if i hear your name im going to explode and obliterate everything in my path. you have made me destructive but still i am open arms for you and i am so angry at myself for letting it happen again but i must keep you alive and the only way i can reach you anymore is by turning off the lights and waiting for the haunting with tears streaming down my face and shaky hands, i will close my curtains, shut off the lights, and wait. i am ready for your return. i am not scared anymore. haunt me, please.
—  excerpt from a book i’ll never write due to the fear of you reading it // ig writingmyself
kurt cobain in his suicide note wrote, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away.” and the more i think about it, the more it strikes me. would you rather slowly lose your light? like you’re the night sky slowly losing its darkness as the morning comes around for the sun to steal away all of your brightness or would you rather be a wild fire taking over the forest and slowly being put out?
—  to burn or fade away

You picked her.

The girl with the pink hair
and confident smile,
that made you
run across the room
at the sound of her voice.
The girl sitting on your desk
who insisted
on a scale of 1-10, she was an 11.
The girl that made your hand shake
when you were adding
her number in your phone.
That girl was me.
And you picked her
to be your second choice.

And that made me think to myself:
“Is this what a sapphire feels like
when it’s next to a diamond?
Do rubies and emeralds
leave room for those
perfect little gems?
Do they know the pain
of being passed on
for more beautiful jewels?“

The voice of my mother
washes over me,
reminding me:
Her daughter was to be
a hard woman,
a strong woman,
a woman that can make
a man’s hand shake
just by being in her presence.
She was not to be
a shiny token on his arm.
She was the reason
he bowed at her feet.
She was not a jewel
that can be bought.

Your first choice may be
the stunning diamond
at the center of your home,
but I’m the wrought iron fence
you were too scared to pass through.
She may have
cut, colour and clarity,
but I have
character, charisma, captivation.
She may be the air that you breathe,
But I would have been
the reason you could breathe
after a wave of emotion suffocates you
and you would hate the air
because you’d wish
the water of my love
filled your lungs.

I was not pressed to perfection
I was forged
with hard work and determination
and iron fences were made for intimidation.
But don’t think
the twisted barrier that I am
marks me for damnation,
just because this damn nation
fears to unlock gate latches.

But I don’t want your fear,
or manipulation.
I want you to fall in love with her.
I want you to
run across the room
when you hear her voice.
Your hand to shake
when you hold her close.
Your eyes to shine bright
like the diamond she is.

And I want you to
forget that pink hair
you found on your desk,
forget that I’m an 11,
forget that I’m made of iron,
forget me.

Because one day,
will remind you of
that glorious rusted fence
you couldn’t pass through.
And all those memories
will hit you
like a tsunami
and you will think:
“I wish I drowned in her.”

My roommate pets my cheek until I wake up.
She has skin as white as shaved ice
and unplucked eyebrows that furrow as she whispers:
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
It’s seven a.m.  I haven’t lost anything except sleep.
She says, “The way they just killed him at a traffic stop.
It isn’t right, it isn’t right.
I’m sorry.
If you need anything, please let me know.
It’s heartbreaking.”
Her eyes, which have been scanning my room,
land on mine as she cracks the word heartbreaking, 
as if to emphasize
I wonder if she followed the shootings
before she started living with a black girl.
I wonder if she looked up the article herself
or saw a headline in a Facebook post.
I wonder if she marched.
I wonder if, like me,
her only form of activism is rescue dogs.
Oh honey, I wanted to say.  I’ve stopped counting my dead.
I’ve woken up with a pit in my stomach so many days
that the pit is my stomach.
If she asks me – and I know that she will ask me,
earnestly, with wide eyes that soak up every word
and shoulders hunched forward in forced sympathy –
how it feels to live with a target on my back
in America,
I won’t know what to say.
I could give her books.
But no, she needs to hear it from me,
a black person with hair she can touch and a heartbeat she can feel:
She can prove I am human.
I am today’s porcelain doll picked from her careful collection
of black friends,
asked to educate.
But it is seven a.m.,
and another black man is dead,
and I have not figured out whether this new death has
cracked through my numbness.
I have not decided whether to sit vigil or light a funeral pyre.
And there she is, with her lower lip poked out,
and she wants to know what she can do.
I have run out of things to tell her.
When I pull the blankets over my head and fill my eyes with darkness,
she thinks it’s because I am in mourning.
—  Morning, Again.

You will be out with friends
when the news of her existence
will be accidentally spilled all over
your bar stool. Respond calmly
as if it was only a change in weather,
a punch line you saw coming.
After your fourth shot of cheap liquor,
leave the image of him kissing another woman
in the toilet.

In the morning, her name will be
in every headline: car crash, robbery, flood.
When he calls you, ignore the hundreds of ropes
untangling themselves in your stomach.
You are the best friend again. He invites
you over for dinner and you say yes
too easily. Remind yourself this isn’t special,
it’s only dinner, everyone has to eat.
When he greets you at the door, do not think
for one second you are the reason
he wore cologne tonight.

In his kitchen, he will hand-feed you
a piece of red pepper. His laugh
will be low and warm and it will make you
feel like candlelight. Do not think this is special.
Do not count on your fingers the number
of freckles you could kiss too easily.
Try to think of pilot lights and olive oil,
not everything you have every loved about him,
or it will suddenly feel boiling and possible
and so close. You will find her bobby pins
laying innocently on his bathroom sink.
Her bobby pins. They look like the wiry legs
of spiders, splinters of her undressing
in his bed. Do not say anything.
Think of stealing them, wearing them
home in your hair. When he hugs you goodbye,
let him kiss you on the forehead.
Settle for target practice.

At home, you will picture her across town
pressing her fingers into his back
like wet cement. You will wonder
if she looks like you, if you are two bedrooms
in the same house. Did he fall for her features
like rearranged furniture? When he kisses her,
does she taste like wet paint?

You will want to call him.
You will go as far as holding the phone
in your hand, imagine telling him
unimaginable things like you are always
ticking inside of me and I dream of you
more often than I don’t.
My body is a dead language
and you pronounce
each word perfectly.

Do not call him.
Fall asleep to the hum of the VCR.
She must make him happy.
She must be
She must be his favorite place in Minneapolis.
You are a souvenir shop, where he goes
to remember how much people miss him
when he is gone.

—  Unrequited Love Poem (On Watching Someone You Love Love Someone Else), Sierra DeMulder
I think a lot about killing myself, not like a point on a map,
but rather like a glowing exit sign at a show that’s never been quite bad enough to make me want to leave.
See, when I’m up I don’t kill myself because, holy shit, there’s so much left to do!
When I’m down I don’t kill myself because then the sadness would be over, and the sadness is my old paint under the new, the sadness is the house fire or the broken shoulder. 
I’d still be me without it,
but I’d be so boring!
—  Neil Hilborn, excerpt from The Future x
your name bleeds from my pen and these pages are screaming your name. i want to call out for you, but instead im stuck with this never ending pain. my ribs are cracking, while my hearts slowly shattering and these pages know all about you. how much i loved you and how hard it is to try and let go of something that once begged you to hold on, to keep fighting. you see, even my journal is consumed by you and i keep finding ways to try and rewrite you so i don’t have to let go.
—  this can’t be the ending.