Poetry Drawer: Five Poems by John Sweet

the distant past, approaching

standing in the sunlit spaces of
late-afternoon shadows, he is talking to
pollock who is dead but the
truth is something else

for november but not

an age of hoses whipped to
death for entertainment

caviar and lemonade

young woman on her bloody knees on
the church steps but
the idea of saviours no longer applies

the stores are all out of business,
windows boarded over,
and he is asking pollock why?

and i am leaning in close,
hoping for an answer

song for tired hands

waves of autumn leaves across
pitted brick courtyards

subtle mistake of considering
early november sunlight to be anything
more than itself and she
turns to me, says you can’t spend your
whole looking for answers in the mouths of
dead men, and it sounds like
                                the truth

sounds like god digging for bones out
along I-88, like pilate selling splinters of
the one true cross

laughter and hope, sure, but what about
the ever-present past?

it was linda’s cancer then
david’s suicide and always the
mumbled wisdom of homeless junkies

it’s the promise of wide open spaces
but even on the warmest afternoons
the fact of winter overwhelms

even in your arms i am
cold and getting colder

am old and getting older

what more can i
give you but the truth?

the image but not the idea

moving east through six a.m.
tunnels of rain, november, december,
age of desperate ghosts, this woman w/
the pale scars keeps slipping pills
between yr lips, keeps speaking in a
language he doesn’t quite understand

only 10,000 miles to the coast

only the ghost of frida kahlo
to light the way

sister asleep in the back seat and he
misses the exit and then the
one after that, and these faded plastic
wreaths w/ their tilted wooden crosses
on the side of the highway

this first grey light of day

thinks let me keep my name

thinks let the suicides all
take someone else’s

starts with love and then
burns his way down to the
ghostwhite bones

litany of concentric circles

finished his drink then
shot himself

said he hoped the poem would be better than the
shit i usually wrote but i didn’t even
know him, wasn’t even there, and he pulled the
trigger and it was november

was sunlit and cold and the blood on the
walls, sound of the girl smiling in the doorway
of the porn shop and my car wasn’t running again

was rusting in the sunlight of someone else’s
driveway and the sound of the
shot and she was smiling as i walked by, was sharing a
cigarette with the guy who worked there, asked me
how the poem was going, said she wasn’t even there but
he had finished the drink then shot himself and
past the high school was the river

sunlit and cold and i found his body floating
near the shore, knew his girlfriend but i couldn’t
lift him up and two kids on the bridge above
throwing rocks down at us, tried to explain that i
wasn’t there, that i wasn’t here, but my
hands had lost all feeling

mouth was bleeding and the hole in the side of his
head where the light poured out, said the girl
had been his sister and i told him he was dead

do you remember?

it was november, bright blue sky and frozen and
he’d written his girlfriend a letter, had told her
he was sorry and then he pulled the trigger

told her to ask me about the poem

showed her some words i’d scribbled across the backs of
some carry-out menus when i found her
standing in the doorway of the mexican restaurant,
explained that i wasn’t even there, and these kids
across the street throwing rocks at us

my car down by the river, tangled up in blue
on the radio and she said she’d always hated dylan,
said she’d always hated the stones, and then he
finished his drink and pulled the trigger

static poured out of the hole in his heart and
he said the poem was the important thing

said the gun was just a metaphor but
he wouldn’t stop bleeding

laughed when i showed him what i’d written
and told me i’d better try again

indian summer

on these clouded glass afternoons
spelled out in pastel shades of blue and
grey, down dead-end streets in a
town you can’t escape, climb the cemetery
walls, walk the last thousand miles
down to the river, body of a dog
tortured and killed, 13 year-old kids huffing
spray paint, soft warmth of the
mid-afternoon sun, end of autumn,
                                freeway sound

                                dream of home

                                wake up lost

                                still no sign of snow

John Sweet’s Blog

Leave a Reply