Poetry from John Tustin


I said goodbye to her,
The cinnamon-skinned girl with eyes
As black as coal,
As brown as the earth beneath the earth.
She said goodbye and she was gone

While here I stand,
Drinking from an empty glass,
My tears falling into this endless fountain that spouts
Up into the nothing-at-all;
Looking into eyes as black as coal, as brown as the earth
Beneath the earth
That do not look back at me
And are not really here.
I rest beside the cinnamon-colored skin,
I feel the coolness and calmness for just a moment –
Knowing fully that what I feel is phantom.

I remember the kiss that sealed us.
The kiss that told me that we were us forever:
Just us.
The kiss was a lie but I can still close my eyes
And feel the shape of her lips surrounding my mouth,
So passionate, exquisite:

I still see the eyes as brown and black as brown and black can be.

I can taste her tongue and feel the shape of her lips;
Soft, dangerous, incongruous.

I still feel the skin that bound me to her and, now,
A lifetime of not her.

The skin that bound me to nothing.


The memories of us
cling to my back
like the old rugged cross.
The splinter of your lonely figure at the bus stop,
the heaviness of the words I left lying
on the bedroom floor,
the downcast doom of that day
dragging us up to Golgotha,
to the inevitability of our death,
the uncertainty of our resurrection.
The memories of us
nailed up above my bed
like that little wooden cross I had
when I was five years old.
I pray to it at night and nothing happens
except a small drunken warmth in my belly
as my eyes leaden
and time keeps going forward anyway,
the bastard.
Driving past the church
I spent so many hours in as a boy,
in the choir, as an acolyte,
holding that chalice that the pastor
bent to the lips of the liars and the skullduggers
and the gossips and the philanderers,
Philistines all.
The cross at the top of the church so fascinating,
not ornate but so beautiful, regal, like a still bird,
snow falling whiter than white around it
like a feather crown.
I think of the time
before I knew you
and how happy I was because I didn’t know then
what little I had
like I know what little I have now.


I could hear the laughter in the rain
As it fell to my houseless head

The rivulets as tears falling down my face
The pools of water ever forming at shivering feet

Clothed in rags, dragging bags
Pitiless, eyes cold, manic, gleamy twin coins

Listening for a single gasp of sympathy
But hearing not a sound in the wind

Except the rain, the laughter in the rain,
The run on complaints of the street

The crackling of the moon
And the silence of the stones:

Wet, shining, waiting for my stumble
and my blood

Their faces as impassive as dead hands
And stilled hearts

Their hardness, their uncaring
To be my final bed


Tonight I am of interest to you.
Tomorrow I might die alone.
It’s been like this for me for a long time –
Long before the night not long ago
That I met you.
It’s funny how important someone seems
On a Monday afternoon:
How you can’t wait to get home and call them,
Find out about their day –
And that same person is not even a thought
Just 10 or 20 Monday afternoons later.
I think of all the people I’ve mostly forgotten
And I know that even more have forgotten me.
I remember eating cheesburgers together,
Tucked into that corner of the restaurant;
I remember it now and wonder if she remembers it
Or even remembers my name.
We were together off and on for a year or maybe more –
As time ticks on the measurements get hazier.
She’s living with some guy the last I heard,
Her divorce finally final for a while.
I was just trying to remember what it was like to have sex with her,
How many of my proclivities I exhibited,
How much nonsense I admitted,
What we talked about in the honesty of the dark.
I remember a little but not much.
I don’t know why I’m telling you this.
It sounds like a portent of doom
But it’s on my mind.
There have been so many Monday afternoons already
With different people waiting for my call
Or perhaps at the point where they were dreading it,
Ready to avoid it.
The Monday afternoons to come are less and less.
Hell, it could happen to us in just a few months –
I haven’t heard from you in a while
And I’ve forgotten you
Or, maybe,
You’ve forgotten me and
I’m still waiting for your call.


Life is nothing like
An early frost upon the grapes
The life cycle of
The honeybee drone.

It’s eating pretzels alone
At midnight
While listening to Enrico Caruso
And knowing that soon,
Too soon,
You will die.
Poetry lies.
You’ll be dead
And it will always be
Too soon.

The poems are lies.

Life is just like death –
Essentially one on one.
You contemplate and love
And hate and battle with

What you’ll regret most
Is all the lies you told
And the lies
To you
That you
Were true.
Nothing about honeybees
Or grapes.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.