Poetry: John Sweet

 the ideal

everything burned and
                    everyone,
              beyond hope,
     beyond recognition

                            sorry

the truth has no shape,
refuses to fit into any
pre-ordained space

the war is won, but no one 
can remember why it began

which specific lie was
deemed necessary to rationalize
              the first shot,
              the first corpse,
              the first baby run through
                               with a bayonet

                                          oh well

cities can be rebuilt
and names forgotten

strangers can write me letters,
tell me i’m an asshole,
                   a pessimist,
                   a nihilist,
but what have i done here
besides replay history
without emotion?

who among us didn’t believe
that the future of democracy
hung by the thinnest
of threads?

what we finally deserve,
i think,
are the deaths we so
eagerly heap upon others
***


dorothea’s birthday

a moment of sunlight,
                of blue sky

wakes up smiling at
three in the afternoon from a
dream with no meaning at all

a raft of forgotten gods 
adrift in an ocean of blood

the phone ringing
and money owed

frost still crawling through the
shadows but fading heat 
where the scars refuse to heal

pale scars where the
past joins the future

they will only hurt for as 
long as we 
keep drawing breath
***


the garden of severed hands, without end

what i never did was 
invent the machine gun

this should count for something

we should be brave in 
the face of hopelessness

should be in love but
christ
the days are like hammers

my thoughts are either 
bitter truths or obvious lies

do you see?

this town is dying and the money is all gone

we're caught

we're fucked

6,000,000 dead and all we can 
think to call it is history

all we can do is spend our 
paychecks at walmart

listen

america doesn't need you and 
it doesn't need me

there will be no revolution 


there will be no equality

picture christ on the cross 
and understand that he saw it coming

believe in the strip malls and the
topless bars and the anonymous women
screwing nameless men on the internet
because they will come to
define us

they will be the dogs that
devour our children

these cities can only fall beneath
the weight of so many corpses
***


gutting the pig: a rhapsody for false kings

he is a man of burning houses,
of petty, dying kingdoms

he is a believer in halos made of
precious metals, 
a believer in crosses and in
anything that can be crucified, and
when you ask him what he thinks about the future,
his mouth is always filled w/
                          blood & shit

when you ask him what he’s learned from the past,
he will undress you while explaining
the necessity of rape

he will laugh at 
the pain of victims

you are already
one of them
***


poem written on the graph of imaginary colors

or christ pinned
down by enemy fire or brian
jones nailed to a cross of pills and
                                      self-doubt

a good year for junkies everywhere

you teach the children to live with the
pain or you teach them to bow out gracefully

maybe find a lover
who will call you honey

maybe build a god from
whatever spoiled meat you can find

and it’s one thing to be afraid of
dying young and it’s another thing altogether
to be afraid of growing old but
you’ve got to choose

you’ve got to scrawl
 yr message
across these suburban bedroom walls in 
the blood of yr victims

this seems like knowledge you
should’ve been born with
***


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).

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