Poems by John Sweet
things that can burn
or consider what can be said without words
believe in the spaces between us
twenty years of silence and of
cities in ruins
a lifetime of
dogs chained to fences
of horses starved and beaten and
what i believe is
christ has forsaken us
what i believe is that everyone dies
frightened and alone
a man asks
do you know who you are?
lennon can do is stare
at the sky
bleed his life out onto this
filthy fucking sidewalk
dream everything backwards to
some hopeful lost beginning
golgotha, which is always within
threatens rain all afternoon and
the screams of crows
and then silence
that i miss you
that the killer nails the girl's hands
to the floor
that he burns down the trailer
after the act has been
these spaces between us
too much like cancer
in the joy of small truths
i have been trying to
name this feeling all day
have been waiting for the phone to ring,
for my children to
and i want to tell them that i love them
i want to
tell them that it matters
i want to hear them laugh at
how foolish i've become
Forget your fate, your fear of parasites,
the broken arms of
winter. Remember the
simple holiness of being eighteen. A time
the devouring began, before the
machine was built, was perfected, was made
to run on pain and fear and human blood.
Two friends dead of cancer by thirty, another
one a suicide.
A fourth was just standing
there in the store, was shot dead with a bag
of chips in his hand. Shot dead by a man who
would end up killing
himself six hours later.
Shot dead with a girlfriend back home, a
and you never really knew him, but he
was eighteen too, was immortal, and
need to remember this. You need to escape
the life you've built
while you can. You
need to run.
First Portrait of Maria in the Style of Dali
You in this sepia-toned photograph,
with your arms wide open
with your hands held up in surrender.
Edge of highway, corner of house,
hint of something better.
A body of water,
maybe, or the back of someone else's
A gun pulled from inside the
killer's heart, and he says
then smiles, then pulls the trigger.
I've gotten ahead of myself here.
I'm ten years old and in a boat with
my father and two of
his friends, and the
engine has died. The tide is going out,
only sound is the pull
of the ocean.
The only heat is the
mindless glare of the sun.
I don't know you yet,
haven't fallen in love with you,
haven't let my tongue flicker lightly
across your nipples in a
The story is over,
or is possibly just beginning.
I have the picture, but can never
make out the expression on
the broken hands of minor saints,
the unfinished thoughts.
Jesus, but to no avail. He's not
listening. He has his own
Can't get a record deal, but his face
is on every empty
here and Fresno. Park your car by
the side of the
Could almost be a picture of Elvis,
if you were
standing at just the