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True North and Untrue You

True North and Untrue You

Sam Pereira has published six books, the most recent ones being Bad Angels (Nine Mile Press, 2015), Dusting on Sunday (Tebot Bach, 2012), and The Marriage of the Portuguese—Expanded Edition (Tagus Press/University of Massachusetts, 2012). He received his BA from California State University, Fresno, and received his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. After teaching for twenty-one years, he retired in 2019 and now lives a quiet life of joy sans desperation, with his wife, Susan, and a gifted, former street dog named Marley in the Central San Joaquin Valley of California.


Praise for True North and Untrue You:


Sam Pereira is a luminous poet. In True North and Untrue You the reader navigates through a myriad of themes filled with stunning imagery, piercing wit and profound emotions. A truly sublime lyricism that engages, surprises and liberates. A collection of radiant poems that bite and uplift. —Diniz Borges, director of the Portuguese Beyond Borders Institute at California State University, Fresno


There is a dazzling sardonic brilliance to Sam Pereira’s superb new collection, True North and Untrue You, as well as something uniquely American in his voice, as if Lenny Bruce had written songs with Tom Waits, all of it graced by the angels of film noir and the cool of Miles Davis. These at times disquieting yet tender and consoling poems are an embodiment of a compelling and new American noir poetry, one that in its cultural nuances can speak wisely to our current historical moment. This is a truly remarkable book for our times.—David St. John, author of The Last Troubadour: New and Selected Poems


Sample of the poems


When the Government Lands in Laredo

A good cowboy song, yes,

And a follow-up of horse shit

Lying there on the streets

Of Laredo. That's my story.

Nothing more. If you’re looking 

For the president, who is not

My president, he's the one

With his finger on these joint

Sessions of criminal madness.


You might wonder how he does it,

Wearing his clown suit of hair

And bad ties, until you hear him

Whispering to a woman

Who could be his daughter,

As she passes by the outdoor stage

At just the correct moment,


“I have the greatest bad ties.”

Then, a short middle finger 

To her and the world she buys

Her ice cream truck ice cream in.


He unashamedly howls

That he loves Laredo. He loves

Ice cream, and the shit that rests 

In the middle of these ancient streets. 

He’s been joshin’ with us

Since he got here. He loves

Saying the word joshin’.

It gives him street cred in Texas.

He loves it as much as he loves you.


Certain Things

A person remembers

Certain things, important things,

Like buying a black leather jacket,

And instantly thinking

You looked like James Dean

Just before stepping into a Porsche.

There was that time you offered

Your father a copy of your first book,

And he, having never considered

The likelihood of your being

A man of words in a culture

Of regret until that moment,

Suddenly, and without warning,

Smiled. He’d been afraid for you,

Thinking you would end up

On the corner, just you and those words,

Along with a cheap red wine.

He was closer than he might 

Have ever imagined, but

He smiled, and shook his old head

Instead. Finally,

There was your mother, 

Who’d always been content

To stand alone in the background,

Preparing a beautiful dinner,

Like the one she did

For you and your girl.

She presented a carved roast,

And some fine red potatoes,

Like you had mentioned

Once in your work, she said.

Then your mother smiled,

Like your father had done before,

When he was alive and looking

At what he’d been given, its fine paper.

One could always tell the quality

Of the writing by its paper.

You remembered every tone

In his delivery. Your mother 

Smiled at the woman you’d brought

To the house for dinner,

The one you were going to marry.

Everyone explains it this way,

If you ask people nicely

On a warm afternoon in the valley:

The notorious beauty of smiles

Is always reflected in their tears.


Elegy for the Roses

for John J. Pereira

The smell of death and candles

Is all I remember today; that

And the fact the priest

Who was from Malta,

Kept telling everyone “Look

At the calmness in his face.”

All I saw was the coldness 

Of your dark forehead 

When I bent to kiss it; 

The pale light that came 

From underneath your eyelids.

You made me dig weeds

And cut the lawn; water

Those damned roses

In the summer, in the heat.

Your favorites were the red ones;

Wondrous and beautiful,

Like the woman from Texas

Who said yes in 1948,

And gave you me in 1949.

You laughed when my fingers

Bled from the thorns; another

Gift that, now, as old 

As you were when you died,

I appreciate. You watched,

As I tasted my own blood,

Blood as red as the Chrysler Imperial

That bloomed every year

On the side of the house. I swore

I would never deal with nature

Again, when I got older, never

Break out in hives from the allergies

That cutting lawn brought on.

I was wrong. I’m grateful.

I miss having to disagree with you

At the table about watering times,

About the Vietnam war,

And about why the comics 

You thought funny, I thought

Disastrously dull, about as funny

As the smile the damned priest

Insisted was on your face

In death. Goodbye, Father.

I’m going to tell my students now

How good you were; how flawed;

How important. I have, so far,

Mastered flawed. I’ll show this

To my wife tonight, the one 

You never got to know. I’ll show

This to my dog. Your crazy son,

The poet misses you sometimes.

In the middle of the day, 

Your crazy son smiles at the music

You left him. Father, the music.

The music smells like roses.


13:11, Elizabeth Reed, Fillmore East ‘71

I suppose it’s a generational thing,

But no guitar has ever sounded

So sweet. In the middle

Of a quiet wood, what can I say?

The South will dance again?

Probably not ever. Probably,

When the final cloud rushes

The old highways, and the ghosts

Of my ancestors once removed

Take snuff and clear liquids

Into the dawn; when

A cigar-toting politician 

In a white suit, caressing 

A watch fob, smiles

At a long-legged young girl

In short jeans, perhaps then

Another guitar can take over

And make young men think

They are hearing violins again.

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