Yellow Mama Archives II

John Tustin

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THE BULLET OF THE ASSASSIN

 

by John Tustin

 

He stalked me since I could remember,

Looking at me with a combination of boredom

And disdain.

His sunglasses perched on his head,

Watching me from the driver’s side,

One eye squinting shut, the other unblinking

Up against the rifle scope.

 

I didn’t know who he was

Or why he wanted to kill me

But he went everywhere I went,

Watching me impassively from a distance,

His finger dancing around the trigger

Whether I made a move or sat still.

 

I used to think he was God

Or maybe the Devil

But I am sure there are others more deserving

Of the time investment leading to

The fidelities of salvation or

Damnation.

I always felt like I just was

And no one cared

And that was that.

 

I lived a life in dull aching,

The bullet of the assassin

Waiting for me in the rifle

Held in the hand of a man

Who could kill me any time

But for some reason was

Just waiting and waiting.

 

I never heard a shot.

I never saw the assassin

Change his expression

From passive to active.

Who knows when the bullet

Entered my body and began

To end me?

 

One day I felt the special pain,

Looked down and knew:

Gutshot

And discovered too late—

 

Already

Bled out.

 

The bullet of the assassin

Inside,

Telling a man who thinks

He is just walking dust

That that is exactly what

He is

And will be

 

Forevermore.




THE MONSTER


 


by John Tustin


 


The monster jumps from roof to roof,


With the formerly gentle populace in pursuit


Just behind


Or just below.


They have finally found him


And it is time for the story to end.


He roars in pain, his wounds of the body throbbing,


His wounds of the soul


Freshly opened.


 


He falls to the ground


And just before the rabble surrounds him


With their shotguns, torches, and pitchforks—


A stray cat comes up to him,


Swiping her rump and tail around his prostrate body


As he lies broken and waiting to die.


He smiles, reaching out to stroke the kitty


But the crowd comes forth and the cat disappears


Into shadows amid their din.


 


The monster thinks about that moment and smiles again.


What could be better than sitting in a chair in a dim light,


Scritching the neck of a contented cat? Probably nothing.


Then he closes his eyes and, without a further move or sound,


He waits for what will come, must come next.


And it does.



DAREDEVILS

 

by John Tustin

 

When I was three,

Evel Knievel

Attempted and failed to jump

Snake River Canyon

On his rocket-geared motorcycle.

He landed at the bottom of the canyon

Directly below

The launch pad.

 

Moments ago,

After sixteen beers,

I took a shower

With

My left leg

Fast asleep.

I didn’t fall nearly as far

As he.

 

We both failed.

We both made it.

 

Today

You can find Evel Knievel

Resting peacefully

At Mountain View Cemetery,

Butte Silver Bow County, Montana.

 

Me?

I’ll be at New York Presbyterian Hospital

In about an hour or so,

Resting

Without peace.

 

The hole the tombstone shadows

Was his last

Jump.

 

You’ll have to wait a while

Longer

To see mine.



THE TRICK IS

 

by John Tustin

 

“The trick is

To put the knife

In

Between the shoulder

Blades so slowly

And with such

Subtlety that

The poor bastard

Gets bled out

Without

Even knowing

It.”

 

She said this

As she dug

It in deeper

And the blood

Flowed down

In silent rivulets;

The floor

Soaked red

Thick as syrup

Around my feet

 

Right in the

Middle of

Our

Body tangled

Closed eyes

Kiss.




 

THE CHAMPAGNE OF BEERS

 

by John Tustin

 

I was highly doubtful of this claim

As the sale was 18 12-ounce bottles for $9.99

But the liquid looked so golden at 10 AM

After 10 hours lifting and dropping

For what amounts to about 5% of my monthly rent

After the taxes and the child support.

 

I went into the supermarket hoping

That Corona would be on sale for $12.99

Which is what I typically pay for an 18 pack of Miller Lite

But tomorrow was my birthday and I was imagining

It would be okay to splurge this one day

On my third favorite beer—but it was not to be.

 

Miller High Life,

That beer of truckers and milkmen

Who lived before my parents conceived me

Was looking so pretty and golden

And, best of all, cheap.

I bought the 18 pack

And went home to drink it

As I ate and then wrote

Before Billy Collins’ and Charles Bukowski’s words

Bashing into me gladiator-style.

 

The Champagne of Beers flowed through me.

I did not care for beer #1 but beer #3 was not bad

And beer #12 went in like water down a ladder

In a mine fire.

I read and I listened to music and I wrote

And now

 

Here we are with another boring poem

About my boring life

Drinking beer and writing poems

That inhabit no one but me

And you, if you are so unlucky.



THE DEATH AND THE PAINT

 

by John Tustin

 

I will paint pictures of you

In acrylics

On the fingernails

Of old dead women

Just before they meet

The flames of the

Crematorium.

 

The pictures only alive

In my memory

And the smoke emanating,

Paint in there with the ashes.

You look so pretty,

 

Just like I remembered

As I breathe in the death

And

The paint.



THE SKY IS FILLED WITH WINE

 

by John Tustin

 

The sky is filled with wine—

Bloody blackish red,

Moving along the horizon like stained clouds.

The streets are being inundated

With the fallen tears of abandoned children,

Maligned women and loveless men,

Every puddle a brackish abomination

To the false testimony that all lives

Are sacred.

I spilled my beer on the table

And the little puddle of beer

Became torrents of water

That fell as waterfalls on the bedroom floor

Reaching waist high

As the tears fell outside

And the wine blotted out the moon

In this,

The last year

I cared about whether or not

I would drown.



ANIMAL UNDER THE TABLE

 

by John Tustin

 

There is an animal under the table;

unnamed, without a face.

There is a monster in the closet,

whispering to the ghost

who inhabits the space

between my walls.

There is an angel swinging

behind the closest star

that is still farther away

than I will ever reach

and there is an animal’s body

carved into the moon

that dwells anxiously above me.

Its silhouette reaches my door

and scratches at it,

waiting for the animal under the table

to crawl out from under

while I try to sleep

and let him in.

They conspire,

they commune

while I lie here,

wasting moments,

contemplating.



MEN IN BRIMMED HATS

 

by John Tustin

 

There are men in brimmed hats with heads bowed.

In the distance they are nothing but shadows cast

And silhouettes—

 

Riding their solemn horses slower than a trot

Toward the aching yellow towns with the sun behind them all the way.

 

There are men in brimmed hats

Standing before the swinging saloon doors

With cigarettes dangling unlit from pursed lips

 

And the rain pours down like a Hollywood rain upon them

In buckets and buckets,

Spilling in tilted oceans from the hat brims

 

As they just stand outside before the swinging saloon doors

In the yellow towns where every other cloud brings rain.

 

There are horseback men in brimmed hats—

Tipping them with great broad thumb and forefinger

Before scratching their stubbly chins and moving the cheroot

From one side of the mouth to the other

 

Then squinting a voiceless goodbye to one yellow town

On their way to another

With the sun always behind them.

 

There are men in brimmed hats

And I am not one of those men:

I am another kind.



STONE ON FIRE

 

by John Tustin

 

Our world is a stone on fire

revolving in agony

for the entertainment of a demented sun.

Our love is a fishless ocean—

vast, desolate,

bridgeless, infinite foamed iniquities.

 

Every pebble on every beach

its own tiny stone of fire.

Every drop in our ocean

its own fetid nation

of gossips and libertines,

insolent slack-jawed charlatans.

 

When the waves hit the beaches,

that is when the stones are quenched;

that is when the stones ignite.
Our bodies pierced;
the sand drenched in blood,

the blood covered in sand.

 

That is when our cities are in shambles,

our forests ablaze,

our dead-zoned ocean

conducting the lightning in the sky—

slick with flames on the surface

and riddled with pestilence below.




THE DEAD MINGLE WITH THE LIVING

 

by John Tustin

 

In my dreams each night,

the dead mingle with the living

and I stand among them,

feeling like both and neither.

 

The smell of smoke comes in;

a fire burning

of rubber and rotten wood:

the dead mingle with the living.

 

In my dreams each night,

I sit within my grandmother’s kitchen

with my brother

who transforms into my son.

 

Then I am in my childhood home,

ugly green carpet all over

but my ex-wife owns it somehow

and my daughter won’t come downstairs

 

and there are cats that lived there

but they are all missing

and my ex-wife denies they existed at all

and that door leads nowhere,

 

nowhere but down down down.

I open it anyway

and I descend,

finding no happiness nor cats.

 

My mother is in the kitchen,

still dead but now alive

and I hear the water running,

she’s washing the dishes

 

but when I put down the newspaper

and walk into the kitchen,

she’s not there anymore

and the dead don’t mingle anymore

 

because I’m waking up.

I’m waking up

and I smell a fire burning

of rubber mixed with fresh wood.


 

 

THE FLOWER IN YOUR LAPEL

 

by John Tustin

 

I bend to pick the flower

and the vine grabs me by the throat.

I search for smooth stones

and I find only ashes.

I climb the mountain

and find molehills on the other side.

The robin flew away from me

and the alligator winked from the muck.

An owl hooted

and a crow responded—

I think they were talking about me—

I almost caught the egrets laughing

behind my back.

A stiletto is always a blade to me,

never a heel.

I only like to see women in black stockings

in a photo or on a screen.

I’m offended if a woman who gets in my bed

is anything but bare-legged.

Call me crazy. Many do.

I prefer eccentric.

I tried to sniff the flower in your lapel,

by the way.

I wasn’t afraid,

seeing as how it was cut off

and far from its vine.

You gave me a squirt of water

right in the eye.

You probably don’t even know you did it.

That ought-a learn me,

as grandma used to say.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.


 





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