Poetry Drawer: If Everything Is Maria: vines, tangled with frost: beneath the slow drift of sunlit clouds: (the tools of the trade are the head and the heart): the other prayer by John Sweet

If Everything Is Maria

Always something that needs to be
kept from someone, and so
I stay quiet

Always a truth I would tell you
that might feel like a lie

A room filled with enemies or
ex-lovers, a boat on fire in the middle
of the ocean, my house at the edge
of the flood

Find the room where I
kissed you for the first time

Find the stretch of highway where
the children were murdered,
were buried by their father

Look in all directions and
call whatever you see America

I am just beyond the
edge of it, waiting

vines, tangled with frost

no fear because you’re pretty
sure it’s a dream, this silence,
this late afternoon room with
the shadows of trees climbing
the walls, dust caught in sunlight,
child facedown on the bed you
sit at the foot of, your oldest
son, crying softly, dying, which
is a weight left unspoken, air
thick with the taste of metal,
of sweat, of the fear you
thought was missing, and you
can’t get warm enough and
you have no words

you wake up lost
in an empty house

sound of ragged breathing

beneath the slow drift of sunlit clouds

and the heavy buzz of bees and
the slamming of doors

wait until the rain has passed

until the smothering
heat has returned

and why would you spend
every second of every day being
christ and what will you prove
by ridding your lawn of all weeds?

sit in the car on a wednesday
afternoon, ask your wife if there’s
anything she wants to tell you and
then pretend to believe
her answer

remind yourself that
poems are only clues

vallejo is dead
and the world still continues

pollock’s bones cannot be
broken any more

it doesn’t mean you
shouldn’t keep trying

(the tools of the trade are the head and the heart)

the plague years, but
not without warning

the false king, who lies about
everything while the assassin waits
patiently, because history takes time

these shallow graves are endings, yes,
but only of their own stories

you grow up in a dying
town in a bankrupt state

you understand empty fields and the
claustrophobia of hills
pushing in from all directions

you understand the suicides who
leave no notes,
because words are
their own form of failure

because actions mean nothing
without resolution

if all that’s left at the end of
each day is silence,
then let us laugh to pass the time

if time is all we have to
truly call our own,
then let us gather as much as we can

let us forever
burn down the palaces of fools

the other prayer

or darker rooms or distant laughter or
maybe just the bitter hum that
trails behind the neverending stream of desperate days

rainsoaked flag at half-mast in the courtyard on
some grey monday afternoon

man says it needs to burn

says he wants to cast a shadow, maybe just
make a fist or pull a trigger

ends up in a field of ghosts

believes in the lesser mercies

bare trees and empty wires
against a dead twilight sky

says he’s sick of this town says he’s
sick of this state but
his hands are nailed to the life he’s made

holds his children hostage

paints white circles on a
white canvas and calls it art

says it’s a portrait of christ or an
effigy of his father and he says there’s never
anything out here but time to waste

says let’s just pull the goddamn house
apart board by board and
call it good

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 A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications) and A DEAD MAN, EITHER WAY (2020 Kung Fu Treachery Press).

You can find more of John’s work here on Ink Pantry.

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