Poetry from John Tustin


I never think about you when it rains anymore
except for tonight when I am
for some reason.
It could be the way the air smells a little like mold,
only it smells good, not bad
and it reminds me of some other time
but I don’t remember when.

I hope next time it rains
I’ll continue my process
of forgetting all about you
more and more often
but the rain has a way
of getting in 
when it gets to falling heavy.
I don’t know.
I breathed you in for so long
and it’s been years since then
but I know my body hasn’t expelled
all of you

I never think about you when it rains anymore
except for tonight when I am
for some reason.
Water is getting in
through the one window I’ve left open,
over in the corner.
I’ll get up and close it
but not yet.
Not yet.


The river of your spine,
the soft and gentle slopes of your body.
The deep well of your belly,
its rich sediment;
the two burning coals that were your eyes,
moistening and filling the room with steam.
Your mouth
when I was hungry;
its dewy texture,
its ripe flavor.
Your breasts a cottony riverside
when I needed to rest
and bathe and drink.
My hair damp with the evaluation
of your flesh,
my bare feet leaving wet half-prints
on the floor beside the bed.
Your thighs
two more rivers flowing up and down
and me swimming all along them
a long time ago
before this now-dusty valley,
abandoned and long weary of metaphors,
went dry.


There are people
who sit alone drinking coffee
and they listen to every gulp
as it falls down their throats
and vibrates in their ears.

There are people
who smoke cigarettes 
and they hold them in a certain
effete way, watching each puff
of smoke as it emanates 
from their browning lips
and rises up the room
like a mist of vines.

There are people
who are content to eat alone
in a brightly lit restaurant
reading something on their phone
while they eat french fries 
without looking at them.

There are people
who don’t notice
when someone has entered the room
and there are people
who compliment anything
that they secretly find unattractive or vile.

There are people
who drink 
and people who don’t drink anymore
and people who have never swallowed
even a single drop.

There are people who think they love God
and people who curse at the mention of His name
and people who don’t believe he exists at all
and there are people like us
who don’t pretend we know anything
about anything.


She only lived around the block from us
for a summer or so
and I can’t remember her name
but I can close my eyes now
and see her as clearly as I could
when we were ten years old
and she played Army with us.

She had short brown hair
a little darker than mine
and just as messily arranged on her head
and she could and would do all the things
a boy her age did.
She played hockey and baseball with us
and I had this enormous crush on her
even though she dressed and acted
and kind-of looked a bit like a boy.
Never did I say anything or do anything
about it, of course. I was ten.
I kept everything to myself
like most of the kids did.

I tried to be on her team (or side
when it came to Army)
whenever she came out to play with us
and no matter how fast she could run,
how far she could throw
or how well she could imitate the sound of a machine gun,
she was still a girl to me.
She had eyes like a girl. No boy’s eyes
would ever make me feel like that.
Her sweat smelled different than my sweat
and when it sat in beads on her neck
as she stood with hands on knees at second base
with eyes squinting in the sun
I knew that she was a girl
and that I liked girls – especially her.
She spat on the ground and scratched her short boy’s haircut
while I snuck my glances,
feeling many things –
none of them confusion.


Your dusky stem!
Your bright brilliant husk!
Watching you bloom at night,
My lovely evening primrose,
Your petal soul so yellow,
So delicate to touch,
So indestructible in the wind
That never stops blowing.
You bring me your medicine
And your certain loveliness
Each evening that you open
For me, just for me, only me.
You black-eyed sorceress
With your thighs that are
Held by roots that love the earth.

Your blatant purple stigma!
Your anthers that shine!
Your filaments glistening with new dew!
Your sheltered husk that hides
The seeds and the fruit
That nourish me 
And your sepals that hold such beauty
With an animal’s natural grace.
You black-eyed mistress
With your legs that shake
But do not bend,
Held by roots that love the earth.

One thought on “Poetry from John Tustin

  1. John, I simply adore “The Tomboy.” It took me back to the 1960s when we too played “Army” or “War” and innocently obliterated one another, until which time as Viet Nam made it untenable. I remember the tom boy, acting like a soldier or a baseball player, just as you describe, and my inevitable crush on her. You’re right: it’s the eyes that were different; they were lighter, prettier, almond-shaped. Thanks much, John.

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