time and tide
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Five Poems
by John Sweet




time, in all directions



or the minor acts of dead men


of forgotten lovers


you live in the past


                 or future

and make no apologies


am i inventing you

correctly here?


fifteen wasted years and

then five good ones

and then the cancer


the phone call from his sister on a

weekend i was out of town and

what if i tell her the joke but

forget the punchline?


there are other lives at stake here,

you understand


gods taking bullets and

newborn babies set on fire and

all of the pits being dug by

anonymous soldiers on the

edges of factory towns


all of the wars that are started

while we sleep


all of the letters from home

that get lost along the way


never knew you were loved

until it was

too late to matter




a line, (a short blue one)


Universe A


Was and is raining.  Cold.  Slow

decay of houses, of cars, and the

poison spreading underground.

Twenty years now, and all of those

teenage girls dead of cancer.


Twenty five since I last saw you.


I wrote the novel, then burned

every page.  I worked third shift

washing dishes.  Slept without ever

hearing the phone ring.  Slept

while the future moved off in a

different direction.


Woke up four hours later, and

all of the possibilities I’d come

to believe in were gone.




a line, (a short blue one)




any fool can show you a map


any house can be the

one you die in


told her this like it

actually meant something and

she laughed, walked out the door and

got married, had children,

                          grew old


you see?


the days bleed into each other

                             without end

no matter how loudly you scream

no matter how tightly you close your eyes


all of our victories lined

                      end to end

           add up to nothing


the man handing out handfuls of

candy is the one who will give the

order to butcher the children,

and then what?


art becomes such a monumental

waste of time when placed beneath

the suffocating weight of our

accumulated atrocities




a line, (a short blue one)


this is the fire


like some dark blue christ nailed

to a cross of human sorrow


like a dull orange sky

over hardscrabble fields


i have seen your

version of the past


i have been pinned beneath the

weight of so much hatred i

could no longer breathe


we are all dogs, yes, of course,

i see this now, but it feels

so goddamned good to fuck the

wives of anonymous men


feels better just to be alone


to enjoy the danger of

keeping absolutely still


that target painted across my

heart in such beautiful

breathing colors




a line, (a short blue one)


looks up, shoots at the sky


where the clouds broke apart for just a

frightened moment

and the sun suddenly and without warning


where every dream was of christ

but none of them were of salvation and

when she spoke it was in someone

                                     else’s voice


when she asked if there was any

reason to keep on going it

was too cold to answer


leaves torn from poisoned trees in

bitter november wind and

all of our doors locked against it


the illusion of safety


the children growing older


a weapon hidden in every room and

then a body found buried

beneath some suburban back porch


a woman naked and

chained in the basement


smaller wars with only victims and

you said this was better

because it cost you nothing


a river run black with blood

and you said it tasted fine


said there was nothing left for me

to do but close my eyes and jump




a line, (a blue one)


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