Poetry from John Tustin


In a thousand years
I want to be remembered
in a volume like 300 Tang Poems.

100 thousand college students will see my name
and read four lines I wrote
about an egret dismissing a marsh

or an ingenue losing her locust hairpin
under a moon that is a kicking rabbit
or an old man finding solace in his memories.

I would rather be remembered
for four lines written in haste
after hefting seven or eight bottles of Sam Adams

than not be remembered at all.
To be honest, it would be nice if the students liked the poem –
but it’s not a dealbreaker.

Every day I walk past a tree in front of a house
And under this tree is usually a collection of squirrels –
Many gray squirrels and up to four fox squirrels.

The person who lives in the house behind the tree
Puts nuts out under the tree every day
And there are so many the squirrels can never eat them all.

I walk by and the squirrels scurry away –
Which is a good reason a group of squirrels is called a scurry, I guess.
Only one squirrel doesn’t retreat at my approach.

As I said, there are four fox squirrels among the grays –
One of them is melanistic and one of them is very big and pudgy.
The first time I saw the big one I thought he was a raccoon.

That first time I saw him he was alone under the tree
And when he saw me he stood up on two legs and stared me down.
I turned around after I passed and I found he was still watching me.

There was one time he decided to retreat at my approach
And it was like watching an old fat man as he climbed the tree.
I imagined hearing him huff and puff, cursing me under his breath as he clambered. 

There are many gray squirrels and four fox squirrels –
One is melanistic and one is pudgy and larger than the rest.
I wonder if the fat one would be picked first or last for dodgeball

If the squirrels were human children. Powerful but slow, I imagine.
These are the kinds of things that go through my mind
When I forget to bring my headphones on my walk

And why I almost never do forget.


Some poems are meant to be inhaled,
then exhaled through the nose.
Some poems are meant to escape through the teeth.
Some poems enter through a hole
that it drills into the back of your head.
Some pulls pull you by the ear
all the way to the principal’s office.

Some poems are ghosts,
howling between your ears.
Some posts are nettles
beneath bare feet.
Some poems stutter as they ascend.
Some poems need a paleontologist’s pickax.
Some poems pummel your roof
like hailstones.

Some poems are cryptological; zoological;
illogical; scatological.
Some poems are dead hair
beneath a barber’s chair,
waiting to be swept away.
Some poems are not poems
because they are limp and useless without the music.

Some poems are living things
and some poems are dead things
and some poems are living dead things
and some poems are dead living things.

Some poems take flight
and some walk the earth.
Some wallow like happy pigs in dirt.

And poems about poems, like this poem,
are meant to be balled up
and tossed into the nearest wastebasket
after you read this,
I better hear you crumpling.


There’s this little divot in the ceiling
I am studying here in bed
While lying on my back
With the room spinning

As well as the moon outside
Spinning, I imagine, like a pinwheel
Even though there’s not even the hint
Of a breeze.

I’d get up to look and make sure
But somehow the door and the windows
Are gone
And the floor is 

And all that is left in this room now
Is me and this bed
And this little divot in the ceiling
That I have convinced myself
Is of great importance.

I finally close my eyes
With the moon out there
Spinning like a pinwheel
In a night so hot and still
Without even the hint
Of a breeze

The divot in the ceiling has


I meet the mountain
and the mountain
is the wrong mountain

I fall in love
and it’s the wrong woman

I send out my poems
but they come back

having gone to the wrong places.

I am here –
in the wrong home,
living at the wrong time

Li Po looked up
saw the moon
offered it a drink

a thousand years ago

smiled in deep sleep
even though he knew
it was the wrong time.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. His first poetry collection is forthcoming from Cajun Mutt Press. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.