Poetry: John Sweet

Bio: 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).

the desolation years

who was it told you
you spoke with the voice of angels?

how hard do we laugh at the
deaths of our enemies?

the ones who were just in the way when
the trigger was pulled?

nothing wrong with a little blood on
your hands if it gets you laid

nothing more hopeful than the first
days of a war you’ve been
promised you can’t lost but what
happens when your child is killed
                                for the cause?

what happens when you hear the ballad of
a safer world for the bullshit it really is?

need someone to blame for when the
drugs are no longer
strong enough to kill the pain

need to peel the scabs from
the eyes of christ

avoid the sheep who tell you that
words are the deadliest weapons

man squeezing yr nuts in his cold iron
grip says he’ll help you close the door
between the future and the past,
but it’s too late for that and
no one will ever hate you more than
you hate yourself for how things
have turned out

when the dust of history finally
settles, no one will
even notice you at all

times zero

you with the light of god in
your eyes on easter sunday, air filled
with the glimmer of memory, with
shards of chrome, said kiss me said beg and
we were all growing thinner on a
diet of broken glass

we were all dreamers and
we are all the dream

asked the poet what he believed in but
the letter came back unopened

heard about his death a year later, right about
the time of my divorce, right about the time of the
fire, and i went back to read all the 
words he’d ever written

i burned the effigies and i played the
records backwards but
no greater truths were revealed

the sunlight was bitter, the
landscape grey and frayed at the edges

dead trees and empty houses and the children
found buried behind abandoned factories
or out along the edges of the interstate

baby teeth lined up on the
kitchen window sill

back yard thick with morbid nostalgia

understood finally that it was the fear
of becoming my father
that kept me from crawling to your door


find the poet w/ his
tongue nailed to the floor

find his children asleep in
a room filled
with cold sunlight

told his wife i can show you
the truth but i can’t
make you see and she laughed at
how the words twisted
in the breeze

told you there was no great
trick to crawling over broken glass

let you kiss her scars then
told you you had to leave

told you life was too short to
waste it always falling in love

age of uncertainty

tells her how much he hates her
then tells her exactly why

buries her wings in the back yard
next to the child’s ghost

age of flight means
nothing if cobain is dead or
if the crowd crushes eight of
their own while dancing
in the pouring rain,
and i never thought drugs were
the answer but i’ve been
                  wrong before

i’ve never had to i.d. the body
but i’ve mopped up the floors

i’ve talked about suicide with
pretty girls i never saw again and
do you understand why he did it?

did you ask the wrong people
the right questions?

these tiny butchered truths are
what finally
gouge the light from my heart


he is tired of waiting to die

he is tired of causing pain

is smaller in the sunlight and so
he stands on the shadowed side of the house
with his fear of bleeding and his
powers of invisibility

he sinks the shovel into
tender soil
but turns up nothing sacred

thinks he knows more than he used to,
knows he cares about less,
and it makes him feel safer

makes each day less absolute

maybe pushes the mistakes of the past
far enough away to
stop them from cutting
like rusted blades

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