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by John Sweet



i’ll fall


sleeping in yr father’s house, early

afternoon, middle of august, and all

true heroes are dead


all gods taste the same once the

meat’s been stripped from the bone and

what i’m looking for her is forgiveness but

not from anyone i’ve ever known


small miracles in the suburbs, maybe


car on fire in the walmart parking lot and

any number of anonymous children

                                 locked inside it


ninety degrees in the shade but

rain moving down from the north


gazing globes and rainbow spinners and

all of the roads that take us back to

the nowhere towns we were born in


this waitress from my dreams who

keeps insisting she’s my wife


tree in the back yard crashing

down by slow, heavy degrees


only a matter of time before one of

us wakes up to the news that

                   the other is gone




a line, (a short blue one)



you’re not safe, you never will be


but what the fuck is this,

this man who calls on the grace of god while

raping teenage girls in a nation of

                     like-minded heretics,

and why would we not drive him from the city,

                                                        crucify him,

put out his eyes w/ junkies’ needles?


why would we not set fire to

the mansions of tyrants and demagogues,

warm our hands at their ruin?


why would i fight wars in other countries

when the one true enemy has always

been just outside my door?


who will be the first to die

for what i believe in?




a line, (a short blue one)



eating the bones of the poem


suicide factory,

6 a.m.,

and rothko is always waiting at the door


has his pills and his

ideas about transcendence


wants to paint you

in shades of black and grey


wants me to listen to the sound of

razor blades through bare flesh


calls it music and he calls it holy and

what matters here is that i am

less than i was

when you and i were together


what matters here is the possibility

that the pale blurred sunlight

of my childhood might return


that the dead lawns up and

down this bitter street are

nothing more than premonitions


after fifteen years of february

i am ready to start breathing again




a line, (a short blue one)



poem for when you need to understand


or maybe the stench of christ

burning like a witch


maybe the idea of true faith

held up in the harsh light of wisdom

and found wanting




all joy is a delicate thing


all songs mean something,


                       to someone


and i am not dead yet, but i

won’t presume to speak for the rest of you


i wills scratch out my own

bitter interpretations of the truth on

the delicate flesh of younger

sisters everywhere


this is my gift


this is my age


let me be dead by morning

                       if i’m wrong




a line, (a short blue one)



redon, obliquely


afraid all afternoon,

grey shadow on a white page,

flat grey sky over flat grey houses and then

                                                    dig deeper,

past suicide and down to buried cities,

hidden churches,

the bones of saints


lie on the couch with a mouthful of

poison and dream of empty severed hands

in waterlogged back yards


dream of rust

but without falling asleep


this is the trick to being christ


this is the weight of despair


everyone wants to breathe and

everyone wants to be stoned but

the baby is crying


rain turns to snow and

the future falls into ruin


the trees that line the streets here are

all dead and rotting and

the streets themselves go nowhere


escape is an illusion

and so dig deeper


the obvious atrocities


the drowning season


a desert full of empty hands

pushing up through the sand and

what will you give them to carry?




how deep are you willing to dig into

the frozen earth to find pure joy?


hit just one vein of sugared blood

and all the pain

becomes worthwhile




a line, (a short blue one)



briefly, and in flames


a week of luminous

grey skies and damp heat


a lifetime of inadequate saviors


starlings and grackles and

dingy laundry refusing to dry in

overrun back yards


are you still here?


are you still expecting mercy?




no one wants to know about love

when the house is on fire


no one cares about an indifferent god

but that’s all you’ve ever had,



four walls and a door and your

life seen through dirty windows


the ruined bodies of nuns buried in

the sandy soil between

one starving country and the next and

how much could we get for

their bones?


who puts these prices on

human misery?


we have been lying to each other

for so long now that

anything less feels obscene



a line, (a blue one)


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