John returns
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More Poems By John Sweet.

the bleeding horse at the edge of the forest

ice in the river and the plastic bags in

tree branches and if you

call it silence

then you need to be prepared

if you drive north

the mountains begin to drift apart

the fields

which understand fences

which understand the ease of being lost

with no hope of ever getting found

and the girl was eleven i think

when she disappeared

and this was fifteen years ago

my girlfriend was pregnant and

the road went nowhere

went past an empty house with a

starving dog chained to

a tree in the front yard and i

didn’t stop

i considered how deep

the hole would need top be dug

how many times I’d have to

tell the story before it

lost all meaning

before it ended up being who i was

a line

unfinished film about prison

standing there on the rim of the valley

at the edge of the highway

and silent

emptiness and fear and

in the distance (in any direction)

a city

buildings where they sway and collapse

and huts made of straw and

the promise of burning witches

the smell of it

and the heat

like hope but


a line

on the occasion of my four year-old son learning how to draw a peace sign

I am sitting here

thinking about sitting here

thinking about the photos of

all of those paintings of Krasner's

that no longer exist

I am thinking

of course

about Pollock

about myself and my wife

and our children

the need for beauty

in the face of pain

and I'm reading a letter

sent to me by a woman I know

something about a crack addict

beaten by her boyfriend

about the baby she gave birth to

I am reading the part where

she writes this story makes me

think of you

and what I feel is tired

what I refuse to believe in

is America

the strip malls

and the funeral homes

and the bloodthirsty smiles of


the carefully trimmed nails on

the hands of the priests who have

raped your sons and daughters

and I am sitting here thinking

about all of the unpaid bills

on the kitchen counter and about

how the walls of this house

hold no heat

I am waiting

for one war to begin or for

another to begin

for the first soldiers

to be flown home in bags

the words

spoken over their graves

which none of us will


a line

blood in the spaces between what we say and what we mean

crows in an empty field

not the idea

but the fact of it

the sky with a

beginning and an end

the earth moving

beneath your feet and thick with

the bones of indians and



whatever day it is in

whatever year

and all of the unpaid bills that

keep you tied to this life

all of the people you've hurt

who'd like to see you dead

the names you've forgotten and

the lovers you've betrayed

and the trees all bare

the sound of the freeway

the smell of cold engines

going to rust

of the rivers filled

with oil and sludge

America at this exact moment

a woman beaten unconscious

and left in the closet of a burning house

and the simple fact that I've

outlived Cobain

have outlived Christ and

that I refuse to die like Pilate

and what about this

eighteen year old girl naked

except for a string of pearls?

how many wars are you

willing to wage just to own her?

not action

but the act of demand it

from others

all of these young men shot dead

for reasons that have more

to do with money than freedom

all of these songs with

words but no meaning

it was never enough

just knowing how to hate

a line

the well of knowledge

they kill the father

and then his eight year-old son

which makes sense

if you want to rule out the

possibility of vengeance

they kill the mother

but not before they rape her

they save the daughter for

another day

a line


so tell it straight


without the false romance of

distance and loss

you were in love

and then you weren’t

you lost each other

found each other again maybe

then waited to see what

would happen

got by for a while on

sex and fear and memories

and then it wasn’t enough

closed your eyes and

when the morning light forced

them open again

ten years had passed

you were both

married to strangers

you were both lost in

the forest

the edges had already

begun to burn

a line

the bleeding horse:

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