Poetry Drawer: Five Poems by John Sweet

owego poem, from a great distance

or all of us fucked like
dogs in the rain or maybe just
some of us beaten with
the myth of god

or of us raped but
all of us left for dead and
did you come to this town knowing
all doors would be locked
against you?

were you given a shovel and
a reason to dig?

a child of your own to break?

there is never any pain so
private it cannot be shared with
those who hate you most

for kristen, who got there first

and here we are wrapped tight in
the laughter of dead men
shooting their guns at the sky

here we are saying we are here
with our maps drawn in the sand

with the house not quite level
after 100 years of civil war

pictures falling from cracked walls

baby with a mouthful of
broken glass and
the trick of course is
to separate the symbol from
                   the symbolized

the reality is that a clenched fist
has no value in an empty room

your god has no purpose
in a kingdom of corpses

paint his picture on whatever
holy surface you can find
and all it does is fade


dull pewter skies and five below
zero when we get the news of picasso’s death and
then we are stoned when we hear about his
                                             lover’s suicide

ground too hard to start digging graves,
so i am swimming in your blood

you are drowning in my arms

subtle addictions and the frost that
crawls through our veins and
was i whole before i met you?

did he understand the trail of
wreckage his life would produce?

and he probably didn’t care and
we are too wired to sleep when his
widow puts the gun to her head

i am happy for the gift of absolution and
                        you are begging for more

pale sunlight though a haze of
january sky and we were laughing
at the idea of true love or i thought
maybe you were crying

thought you understood i
would always fail you in the end

the enigma in shades of grey on grey

set fire to the air
in the dead man’s house

make sure

says everything is okay, says
this is just a dream within a dream
but i have my doubts

i have stood on the river’s surface
on the coldest day of the year,
have looked down to watch the hands
pushing upward with diminishing strength

i have been god in the
truest sense,
but i prefer drugs

i prefer sex

pain and suffering on a human level
mixed with my father’s disapproval over
every choice i’ve ever made and
what i tell him that standing still isn’t an option,
                                                  he calls me a liar

when i talk about the future, he
puts the barrel of the gun in his mouth and
this is how we spend our last
fifteen years together

this is life in the kingdom of crows

i get married

learn to crawl blind through
any number of deserts of my own making,
but i hang onto this image of you from
when we were young

i hang onto
the idea of free will

the inevitability of a
diminished future

i will find you there and sing
bitter songs of hope
before the story ends

phantom hope

a million miles of static on
pilate’s radio but the asshole wants to dance

tells you the crucifixion is
all in your mind

says it’s a waste of time
being in love with an addict

thirty years and nothing to show for it but
cold sunlight down early morning streets

st elizabeth on her hands and knees
and crawling into the ocean in
some warmer corner of the world

silver chains and a cross of
gold and what if she can’t
remember her child’s name?

what if every moment is
the one that matters most?

you stumble through each one blind
only to end up lost

only to end up holding your
father’s ashes
in the middle of the freeway

a million miles of static in every
direction and that fucker judas with
his hand up your lover’s skirt

with his teeth filed down to
chrome points and his
tongue dripping poison

gives us all one last kiss
then says goodbye

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include Heathen Tongue (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A Flag On Fire is a Song of Hope (2019 Scars Publications).

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