IN A THOUSAND YEARS 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. A SCURRY OF SQUIRRELS 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 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 so, after you read this, I better hear you crumpling. SPINNING 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 Gone 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 And The divot in the ceiling has Disappeared THE WRONG TIME 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.