Poetry from John Sweet

[no loyalties, no rules of war]

have these maps of yr sleeping mind but the

sunlight in this town still spills through my fingers

one room for magritte and then one for

ernst and the one

for your father in his bed of flames


at the edge of the picture

frightened old man with faith only in himself

and once he’s dead he no longer matters

last of the warm days and already cold in the

shadows of these subtly collapsing buildings

already shadows spreading over everything i say

jessica’s father

born to live in a shack at the

edge of the desert with the barrel of a

gun in his mouth

the song he sings and the one he doesn’t and

the failure of words in general

the need for both threats and apologies

                                                but listen

                                            bottom line

not enough time in this life to break every law

made to protect the wealthy from the rest of

us, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try

fear is the weapon to turn back against

those in power

all blood tastes the same to

dogs dying of thirst

just keep licking it up as fast it pours

from the mouth of every false savior

the holy age

these overgrown lawns in the

last bitter days of summer

this cold white sun in its pale blue sky

dogs tied to trees in

front of abandoned houses

prayers on the

lips of luminous ghosts

drove north past the trailer park where i

saw you for the first time 25 years ago

then 80 miles further to the water’s edge

sacred ground in some small way and

when i’m tired of the

truth i still have my memories

when i forget your name

i can still imagine your body

can still believe in the

promise of redemption

[flower, choose the sunshine]

or your lover wearing the

mask of your enemy and

what if you can’t tell them apart?

what if all possibilities fade before

the trigger is even pulled?

the choice between fuck and love,

or the distance

the idea of hope,

which waxes and wanes

i meet her in the wrong room,

in the wrong age,

and we have known each other forever

an impossibility, yes,

and a reality

a glass overflowing

and the best stories, i think,

can never be truly expressed

cannot be spoken out loud

or written down

i will tell you i love you and

then the moment will pass and

what we’re left with is doubt

what matters isn’t the future but

the path we choose to get there

the lies we tell to

help show us the way

a reflection of fire

the bad news is a fistful of

tiny fingers grabbing for your heart and

your heart is only a faulty machine

it believes in ghosts and in

the neverending now

writes letters to god in

silver ink, but listen

the junkies here all spend their

days digging for brighter truths

the carrion eaters want your vote

or at least the

chance to fuck your children

at least the privilege of dropping your

babies from 14th story windows

can’t keep crying about the dead when

all we’re fed from birth is

the unavoidable necessity of war

small miracles

step out into the sunlight

without prayer, without hope

with the idea of salvation,

which won’t be enough

10 degrees and dropping and

all of these children left for

dead by the sides of too many

                     windswept roads

tell them sorry or tell them

it’s your own goddamn fault

or maybe just drive on by

without a word

there isn’t enough room here

for all of us to survive

there isn’t enough humanity

i sit in a dark room and

think about suicide, which

isn’t the same thing as

considering it

i would like to tell amusing

stories about my father,

but i have none

it isn’t immediately clear

whose fault this is

a lifetime filled with clocks running backwards

or my own lies

which i cherish

a lifetime taking

small breaths of poison

laughter both

heartfelt and hollow and that

we will die separated by years,

by thousands of miles, and each of us

alone and forgotten by the other

that there are open windows

in maria’s house through

which the ghosts travel freely

doors locked against

obvious violence

walls painted white,

rugs thick with dust and

how many months do you spend there

waiting for a message from

your father?

how much silence does it take

to fill an empty room?

don’t answer that

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications) and A DEAD MAN, EITHER WAY (2020 Kung Fu Treachery Press).

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