by Johnny No Bueno
Trade Paper; 126 pages; 5-1/4″ x 8″
We Were Warriors is a stunning glimpse into the bloody, raw world of Johnny No Bueno. Drafted into conflict at an early age, No Bueno’s first siege takes place in his violently broken home. In adolescence, he becomes a soldier of the streets, a mercenary imprisoned by addiction and fighting a losing battle for identity with fists and syringes. As an adult, finally freed from shackles of substance, he finds himself at ground zero waging a brand-new war, this time as a crusader for divine revolution.
No Bueno takes us to the front lines with his weaponized words. We travel to every dark place he’s been; places that most of us will never go. He is both vulnerable and vitriolic, and although the stories may be different, it is the sameness that is most striking, the humanness that connects us. We see ourselves through his distorted lens. We relate to his struggle to become more than the sum of his parts. We cheer, we cringe, we are at times collateral damage. We bear witness. We are moved. We are changed.
We are made warriors too.
Selections from We Were Warriors
We Were Warriors
We were warriors.
We championed listless causes.
We sat penniless daring autumn to smack us rainy.
We took turns negating our worth,
from pheromone fixes to sex sickness.
We were puddles of electrified water,
waiting for the innocent in midnight basements.
We were brass knuckles
and the bottle of whiskey at all-ages shows.
We were church pew evil,
hoping to firestorm cleanse the world
of all impurities.
We were shaven heads and Mohawks
steel toed boots and violent empathy.
We were children fed Adam’s apple
giving the finger to regret.
There is something glorious about feigned apathy,
by a flock of broken promises
and failed vows.
We never expected to live this long.
We cannot find enough apologies,
so we throw our bodies onto funeral pyres
hoping we can effigy ourselves absolved.
We are very, very sorry;
not for the stain we left,
but remaining waking pillars
of your failure.
All we ever wanted
were the lies we dressed ourselves in
to billboard us proud.
You speak of non-violence
yet your head cocks like a gun
shooting bullets, dressed as words.
I write poems with fistprints
reading skull fragments and splatters of blood
as if they were tea leaves
and palm lines.
Burnt Bottom Spoons
We are laudanum-drenched sugar cubes,
dripping life over flaming sweetener
into the bitter green absinthe of youth.
We are bridles in the teeth
of fantasies of hope,
trying to rein in the depravity
that is the mediocre of us,
tainting the sour truth
with anything to take the edge off,
yet always overcome
by our own delusions.
We are bits of cotton
pulled from burnt-bottom spoons
hoping there are enough remnants
of yesterday’s hope to sustain us
till we are capable of finding
something new and forever.
What my parents sounded like
when they would talk in the kitchen,
I imagine, is a lot like
looking at someone I love
when they are unaware.
They sound like science fiction.
They sound like daydreams.
Much like those of an IBM,
carefully mapping out ways
to achieve the impossible,
but only ever coming up with radio static.
My mother left when I was three,
my father died when I was fourteen;
fear and nausea were the only home
I had ever known.
I have been trying to prove to the world
that I am a man of principle,
but I still remember the sound of my father
pinning my mother down,
tickling her till she peed herself,
then breaking her nose for peeing herself.
Maliciousness comforts me.
Like the sound of a toothbrush
being scraped across cement prison floors
comforts a convict.
We seek not moments without pain,
just something familiar.
I never liked heroin, but the familiarness
of junk sickness and hypodermic relief
was enough to keep me strung out
for thirteen long years.
When I find myself
crunching numbers of improbability,
trying to calculate myself back to innocent,
I get lost in the static.