Eleven (for another Katrina anniversary)


#35 - Eleven (Flickr, Rob Kendall)
[Photo Credit: Flickr / Rob Kendall]

“Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more ’twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.”
– William Shakespeare, from As You Like It



No one remembers 11 –
the age, the person, the anniversary.
It’s come just after ten, a big one,
a milestone for which we
sing the best songs,
light every last candle in the house.

But this year,
we visit the grave sites in silence.
They always forget this one,
like they’ve forgotten the little towns in between,
the homes still untouched after decade.

So – what’s one more year anyhow?


I don’t want to remember my 11th year –
when grandmother died,
when I wrote my first poem,
when I read it at her wake.
I showed the grownups in my family
how wise a child could be.
I siphoned my sadness into art,
masked it – like an adult –
too unsure of which way
half-grown boys should cry.


Nine months from now,
faded friends from high school
will start celebrating the 11th birthdays
of their storm-born children.
The ones brought to life by boredom,
loneliness, and all-consuming loss.

Rather than filling themselves in
with patchwork concrete,
they chose to pour a new road instead,
one they still dream of riding out
far from wherever this has now become.


May you remember like a child:
the gulf’s bastard breathes in 11 today,
and we’re still trying to wipe away
her flood lines marking our sinking houses,
still sanding down and painting over
damage we’ve buried so deep
that it’ll never rise to the surface,
no matter the number of years
we let slip away unspoken.

“All These Things I’ve Said” – Listen to My Poems and Stories, Live Now at the Atlanta Fringe Fest Audio!

Barisich - AFF Audio Cover (med)
[Click the image above to hear me tell stories and poems at you.]
Hey Folks!

I know it’s been a minute since I’ve posted anything up here, but just because I’ve been quiet doesn’t mean I haven’t been hustlin’! In fact, I’ve been performing quite a bit around Atlanta (more on that in a later post), and I’ve had friends kind enough to record these readings and performances for me. But wait, there’s more!

The Atlanta Fringe Fest hosts an audio section of its festival every year, and my recorded work (now collected) was accepted into it this time around! And to celebrate its 5th anniversary, Fringe Audio is giving $100 to the audio show with the most “likes.” So, click here to listen to my audio-ness now known as “All These Things I’ve Said.” It’s 20-odd minutes of stories, poetry, and indecency from Atlanta’s live literature scene. And if you enjoyed my audio set, show it (and me) some love by clicking the ♥ (heart) “like” button on the Soundcloud player.

You’ll be hearing a smattering of my written work and spoken words performed around the city and beyond. The set features my live performances from Write Club Atlanta, Naked City Atlanta, the annual Drop the Mic Poetry Slam at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and a few living-room-studio recordings. (Also, shouts out to Grayson Bergmann of Grallberg Audio for assembling and beautifying my audio, as well as teaching me things about fancy microphones.)

All of the Fringe Audio shows will be available on the Atlanta Fringe Fest website for the FREE, but only from May 29 – June 12, 2016. There’s some phenomenal storytelling going on in this city, so you’d be wise to listen up.


Click “play” below to hear my Atlanta Fringe Fest Audio set.
[because yay for learning how to embed things]


My Top 6 Poems of the 30/30 Poetry Challenge 2016

So, I’ve compiled this list of top six to help you get your quick poetic fix.

These are my favorite poems of my own crafting from my most recent 30/30 sprint throughout April 2016. These pieces may or may not have gotten the most shares/likes/comments, but I like each of these for one reason or another. And I think that these pieces were some of my most successful in the sense of rising to the challenge of rediscovering my humanity through poetry (as was my goal for this year’s NaPoWriMo) – accepting openly all of the beautiful and horrible things that may mean for my words.

If you like these (or others) of my poems, then enjoy, share, and/or say things.
And thanks again for reading, and for all your continued support!
– Justin

Day 1 – Do Not Make the Bed This Morning

bed 3

“The mattress still keeps the imprint  of your last-night body”

Day 2 – Love Me Like a Dog

dog 2

“escape artists who’ve shed their wings but never lost the ability to leave”

Day 4 – Ode to Nalgene

4 - Ode to Nalgene (Flickr, Taylor Ashton)

“and every time our mouths meet, I remember all the tongues I’ve touched  before yours”

Day 11 – The Broken Morning After (after Gary Clark, Jr. and Jason Isbell)

11 - The Broken Morning After (Flickr, Todd Klassy)

“we lived like we’d excused forgettin’ how money’s just paper that wears thin”

Day 20 – Tony Hayward’s Petrochemical Dream Hypnosis #6
(for those who still sleep atop BP’s Oil Spill)

20 - Smear (Flickr, Raeburn10025, painting by Alyssa Monks)

“as everything you love chokes, falls, and sinks, they become a dirty blizzard of marine snow”

Day 30 – Hurricane K, or Why We Name Storms After People

30 - Hurricane K, or Why We Name Storms After People (Flickr, Julijaal)

“the calm at her core had deceived you, lured you and let you think you were the lure”



Day 30 – Hurricane K, or Why We Name Storms After People

30 - Hurricane K, or Why We Name Storms After People (Flickr, Julijaal)
[Photo Credit: Flickr, Julijaal]

She sauntered in like southern –
hot and wet and bold enough
to blow her gusts in every direction
she damn well pleased.
But her center eye
always had you
right in the crosshairs.

There has never been a predictable trajectory
for a woman scorned. We can assume
her aim, but not her wrath.
And the calm at her core
had deceived you, lured you
and let you think you were the lure.
But you were nothing more
than the catch of the day.

And she gutted you with her tongue,
made you moan for mercy
and nursed you back to humble
for her own pleasure –
fish tale made minnow made mutilated man,
with a little of her tornado
left spinning still in your heart.

Her destruction
had reduced you to a savage.

And now you’re left lashing out
at every hint of wind that scares up
the memory of her, rustles the trees
just enough to make you fear
she’s lurking there, nearby,
hovering just outside of feeling.

She turned you into this,
and what hurts you most
is that she won’t come home
and take credit for it –
won’t claim the monster she’d made
with the magic of her moistness.

She’d just picked up again
on the next current and cloud,
floated high and mighty away
while she left you beating your fists
bloody against the rocks of the shore
she’d ripped you from, thrashing
wildly – tearing into limb after limb –
screaming like you’ve never known love.

Day 29 – James Bond Attempts Seduction Poetry (Found Poem)

29 - James Bond Attempts Poetry (Flickr, Paul Baack)
[Photo Credit: Flickr / Paul Baack]

Oh, my darling sweet,
the things I would do to you
and your amazingly beautiful body.

I would teach you the ways and struggles
of big power, big money, big men, and big
[gestures to cock, smiles] – well, you’re a quick little lass.

I’d smell your warm, animal smell,
sensually thrilling my body to sway
against your form for many, lengthy moments –
our eyes closed all the while.

In our combat, you would be my extra heart,
and I’d hold your two targets against my one.
I’d come in like a rattlesnake,
then stop as dead as a live man can.

My Elegant Venus, I’d take you from behind,
sweep you out of your rock pool
and into the dirty waters.
We’d push through a patch
of phosphorescence together,
and drip jewels whenever
I’d lift my paddle out
of the depths of your ocean.

And as you whimpered softly,
I’d hush you and hold you tighter –
giving you this quantum of solace –
as the sun blazed beautifully into its grave –
reminding you of how kind and soft the sea can be.


[NOTE: This is a found poem, with nearly every line taken verbatim out of Ian Fleming’s classic Dr. No novel in the James Bond series.]

Day 28 – Coffee Cup Girls (Single-Serve, Paper, Non-Recyclable)

28 - Coffee Cup Girls (Flickr, Leo Reynolds)
[Photo Credit: Flickr / Leo Reynolds]

The waiter won’t serve you coffee
in a ceramic mug. Says you’re too young yet,
can’t value it for what it’s really worth.

He gives you paper cups instead,
tells you to drink the tart liquid quick.
Don’t think about it or the burn
in your throat every time
you go back for another single-serve.

Just get the caffeine rush out of it
and toss the vessel aside
like the trash it always was.
Only the nectar matters anyhow.

Keep each around only until
what it contains is just cool enough
to drain with one giant gulp.
Then remind it, as you discard it,
that it was only ever there
for your convenience.

Become calculated,
chalk the constant mismatch
up to each cup’s fallings and failures,
not your own character flaws.

Separate your secret collection
of paper cups by feel and function.
Apply crude science to humanity
in hopes of managing emotion efficiently.

Then store your favorite coffee cup girls
in a box atop your dusty bedroom shelf
and pull one back out
whenever you feel the need
to use her talent for yourself.

Day 27 – Seizure vs. Possession

27 - Seizure vs. Possession
[Photo Credit: Flickr / Mario Gonzalez]


You came to
and opened your eyes
on my inhale
that almost flagged
an ambulance for
what was left of you.

I signaled a thumbs up,
but you were miles away
in your mind, clueless
as to why we were
already up and
surrounding you
with panicked eyes
and nervous smiles.

We concluded
you looked well enough
to signal the medical hounds
to stand down.

I gave you a glass of water.
You said it tasted metallic
the whole slide south.

You asked me
to wash the spit up
from the pillow cover
and to tell no one.
Your mother was already
one too many.


It’s easy to see why
early doctors
would have confused
seizures for possessions –
the demons show their faces
just the same.

They own you,
body and mind,
hungry for your soul,
hopeful that you’ll grow
weak enough
to give it to them,
to make it all stop
for good.


You tried
to beat your demons back,
to wrestle them
into their boxes once more,
made sure
to tape them so tight
that we wouldn’t
have to hear
your torn-steel screams
when they happened
to escape again.

But months later,
the mischievous demon
would reappear
behind the wheel,
and mobile metal
would surround you
like an eager coffin.

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." — Henry David Thoreau

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