Six new poems
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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
that christ has forsaken us

what i believe is that everyone dies
frightened and alone

a man asks
do you know who you are?
and all 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

a line

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 committed

these spaces between us
too much like cancer

a line

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 call,
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

a line


Forget your fate, your fear of parasites,
the broken arms of winter. Remember the
simple holiness of being eighteen. A time
before 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
baby, and you never really knew him, but he
was eighteen too, was immortal, and you
need to remember this. You need to escape
the life you've built while you can. You
need to run.

a line

First Portrait of Maria in the Style of Dali

You in this sepia-toned photograph,
with your arms wide open in greeting,
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 Mr. Lennon,
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,
and the 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
curtained room.

The story is over,
or is possibly just beginning.

I have the picture, but can never
make out the expression on your face.

a line

shiva's blues

the broken hands of minor saints,
the unfinished thoughts. You curse
Jesus, but to no avail. He's not
listening. He has his own problems.
Can't get a record deal, but his face
is on every empty billboard between
here and Fresno. Park your car by
the side of the road. Genuflect.
Could almost be a picture of Elvis,
if you were standing at just the
right angle.

a line

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