Poetry: John Sweet

John Sweet
a story from the wasted years

and he wasn’t dead but
she was laughing still

1974, i think, or maybe 1992

blood on the sheets in a
late august bedroom

kissed the hollow of his heart
while he thought about
getting dressed

told him she loved him but
she couldn’t remember his name
and he’d never known hers

he’d never seen any reason to
believe in god or to
miss his father

took the right exit but in
the wrong state

pulled up to where his sister’s
house had been just before noon
but it was 1986

the fire had made the local paper
and then been forgotten

ragweed pushed up through the
ribcages of the
sleeping and the homeless

a faded plastic cross at the
highway’s edge
and a stranger’s name

blue sky and sunshine and she
sat beside him with her
hands in her lap

said she wanted to go home now

said it was best if they didn’t
see each other again

jul29 (2)

your wasted time your
empty years and then the
baby is born dying

and i get sick of my own
self-pity but not
enough to give it up

i believe in the
weightlessness of fear

the house
failing apart
by silent degrees

got this bastard faith in
trust and love that
cannot be shaken but
what if i’m wrong?

what if each day matters
even less than the
minutes and hours that
make it up?

the truth means nothing 
if all it ever does is
         cause us pain

poem in deepening blue light

and no shadows because
everything is shadow

do you see?

a tentative world of
maybes and suicides

five below zero

the fact that i love you
which i use as a shield

like walls
without doors

                     and in this room at this 
exact cracked and bleeding moment
i can look out this window and
see it reflected in a window
fifteen feet away

i can see the space i would
occupy in a better world

the blind horse and the
crippled rider
and i can hear the laughter

we are all freaks but
only some of 
us recognize this

we are all learning to die one
awkward day at a time

ends up being a life and
all we’re left with are
stories about how
easy it was to waste

song of the sinking man

all these hottest days of late spring spent
obsessing over the grey despair of
february, and why not?

there is only hope and hopelessness,
endlessly circling one another

this woman framed in the pale light of a
bedroom window and when you ask if
she’ll be the one who betrays you,
she laughs

says it’s not that simple, but
doesn’t this feel like a lie?

weren’t the teeth of christ filed down to
jagged points for a reason?


you were told the same shit about
inheriting the earth as the rest of us,
so why would you ever think
you’re special?

why would you bow down to
anyone demanding fealty?

learn the faces of your enemies
and then learn their weaknesses

the brittle heart

imagine the truth as a variable

the sky as empty of
everything but the sun

let enough time crawl by and
nothing in your past
can be remembered exactly

fill in the empty spaces with
sepia-toned might-have-beens,
with hopeful possibilities,
because you can’t be
god without getting clean

can’t f**k all those fallen saints
if you’re afraid to feel their pain


spent a lot of time driving through
dying towns searching for
things that were no longer there

wrote a lot of suicide notes 
disguised as poems

stayed up late waiting for
all those wounds to heal
then woke up every morning
wrapped in bloodstained sheets

do you see the punchline here?

are you tired of late autumn,
of winter,
of children massacred for the
blurry concept of freedom?

what about all that time wasted
kissing the frost from your
lover’s eyes?

it has to be obvious by now

the room will be cold no
matter how many books you burn

the house will fall no matter
how many spikes you
drive through christ

we cannot hope to be anything 
but footnotes in the history 
of neverending despair


collision isn’t fatal but
the blood offers possibilities

tv on the wrong channel and
the president speaks of raping babies

shouts about the importance of wealth,
the need for vengeance,
the illusion of victory and
everything spoken through a
mouthful of sawdust and dogshit and
then the man with the gun laughs

says there’s no such thing
as something new

says this, and then he takes
his own life and, in a world without
safety, there can only be promises
kept or promises broken

can only be darker shades of  
grey and red

the two of us alone in a 
stranger’s room and
waiting for the first light of day

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

1 comment :

  1. Intensely beautiful! Thank you for sharing.


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