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John Sweet
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Zimmerman, Thomas

a murder/suicide in southern California

 

by John Sweet

 

 

or that the man you love

is a rapist

 

that the mother walks away

from the burning trailer

 

from the sleeping child

 

every starving dog with

a gun and a justification for

why they shoot it

 

every room in the

house of truths silent and

thick with the smell

of blood

 

and i am

not a good person but

i love my sons

 

i am not a killer but

i believe in

the simplicity of it

 

i have my list of people

who deserve to die

 

it does nothing but grow

 

 

 

just north of town, out past the cemetery

 

 

 

John Sweet

 

 

the sound of cold metal grinding

against cold metal in the frozen air

 

the desert you were born in

 

the gasoline you got drunk on

 

fucking father was blind and crippled

and just because he left you his

shoes doesn’t mean you

have to wear them

 

just because he had a sense of humor

doesn’t mean you have to laugh

 

just because it was too late to

stop the bleeding doesn’t

mean you couldn’t have at least

                             held his hand

 

 

 

like fire

 

by John Sweet

 

 

thought maybe the

blood would begin to

run backwards once the

war was over but

it didn’t

 

thought surrender would

earn us mercy

but no

 

the children were lined up and

shot beneath tattered white flags,

their bodies dumped in the river,

their mothers raped and then

butchered, and do you

remember the year?

 

was it before you were born?

 

after we died?

 

do you remember the priests

and their magic wands,

their answers that answered

nothing at all?

 

found you naked behind the trailer

with your wide open eyes

and quicksilver wrists

and I told you there that the

baby would never have my name

 

told you that the dogs would

say whatever they had to

to get in between your legs

 

let you find out for yourself

that being weak in the

civilized world would

never buy you any mercy

 

 

the silence of betrayal

 

by John Sweet

 

 

these shadows like

the shadows of ghosts

 

this hand the one that caresses you

 

anointed with salt and blessed by

nameless lovers and then the

crosses where they spring up from

the frozen ground

 

the wars

after no believes in them anymore

 

go ahead

 

explain to me how

god takes sides

 

show me the shacks made of

corrugated siding and plywood

 

the bodies buried where the

fields come up hard against the cities

 

there is no difference between

the past and the future

no need to distinguish between the

dead and the hopeless

 

i was there when he jumped

from the bridge

but i was just passing by

 

was on my home from the

post office and the river was on fire

and there was a woman i had

married

 

there were our children

 

two of them and beautiful and

the man on the radio was saying

that dylan had lost it

 

was saying that

cobain had been shot

 

had been found crucified at the

edge of the desert

but when i open the door

you’re gone

 

when i open my mouth

the words all taste like shadows

 

we’re not growing fat out here

we’re dying

 

 

 

pyrrh

 

by John Sweet

 

 

in the temples as they crumbled,

in the year of burning children,

where hands were windows,

where eyes are open,

saw shadows like scars,

felt the warmth of yr mouth,

kissed the salt from yr breasts

 

stood in the doorway

after the rain had passed

 

stood between yr husband

and his lover

 

called it the year of broken wings

   because none of us could leave,

because we could only fly in

                                   circles,

could only repeat our mistakes

                       again and again,

and when you turned to me i

        saw shadows like scars,

kissed the salt from yr lips,

felt the heat of yr lies

 

stood in the doorway after

the house we never shared had

burned to the ground

 

 

 

Dive

 

by John Sweet

 

 

keeps thinking about the desert

about getting high

about the girls he’s fucked in any number of

                                       shithole apartments

 

finds the slight depression at the far

edge of the field where the horse was buried

 

no songs but the

songs of bees

 

                                     the smell of lilies, of

dogwood and roses,  clouds like mounds of

faceless corpses circling overhead and he

thinks he had a son

 

remembers watching the bus pull out of

the parking lot but has no

memory of it ever coming back

 

and so he’s stoned at the far edge of

summer, 85 miles an hour down the interstate,

hills in every direction, shredded tires from

eighteen-wheelers, crows at the roadkill,

all of these pointless metaphors for

                                    a wasted life

 

he’s 25 and then he’s 43, a father and an

emotional cripple, sunburnt, unshaven,

no use for anyone’s god

 

he doesn’t support the war and he

doesn’t support the soldiers and he

doesn’t support the government

 

walls are walls, of course, and

every window is a target

 

the dogs are always hungrier when the

corpses are bulldozed into pits and burned

 

 

 

but he’s thinking about the desert,

                                          you see,

or he’s thinking about a woman he still loves,

and the two have become interchangeable

                                                in his mind

 

he’s thinking about this child he

may or may not have

 

about a poem he should but won’t write

 

he’s lost, yes, but only because

his eyes are closed

 

only because he never knew where he

was going in the first place




the poem as a bouquet of broken glass

 

by John Sweet

 

 

hangs himself on an

ordinary sunlit afternoon for

reasons you don’t need to understand

 

never heard of frankie b

 

has no use for jackson

 

a genocide of one, right?

 

guaranteed no survivors

 

color and form, yes, but too much of

one and not enough of the other and so

all stories become stories of the

failures that have shaped

your own life

 

and all lives end in death,

obviously,

but some of us can’t wait

 

some of us have other places to be,

have more immediate points to make

 

and she opens the door to the shed

while thinking about none of this

                       and there he is and

                               there he stays

 

the end of a sentence, sure,

and the end of a life,

but the punch line will always be the future

 

those of us who survive will

always have the final say

 

who you were never matters as

much as who we are

willing to let you become


 

 

 

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).

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