by John Sweet




the obvious fear


and i am living in this fading

house in this obsolete town near the

end of the world and this is

the sound of the earth spinning


this is the voice of the sun


says we are all dying


says truths are neither

kind nor unkind


shines on this town and on

this house but not in this room


not at this late hour


all of those lifetimes wasted

believing we still

had time to say good-bye




a black line





and the killer is caught,

and his girlfriend weeps


the baby has no chance,

of course,

and the apartment is cold,

the windows loose in their casings,

the grey light of january filling

the rooms like sleeping gas


smell of gasoline,

approach of trains and

               then the fade


an abandoned factory in the

center of town


a wreath of dead flowers

hanging on

the fence that surrounds it


something small for the

world to revolve around




a black line



uncrowned king


a man with hands of clay

dreaming birds in flight across a silver sky


a christ-junkie nailed to the

future by his balls


says it only hurts if he lets it


says the pain is a more

compassionate god than god


doesn’t expect you to get the joke and

he won’t stop

bleeding all over the carpet


he won’t stop trying to explain the

significance of his bent and broken wings


has faith that a lifetime of

sincere lies will

eventually outshine the truth




a black line



the burning gift


serpent charmer with his

fists of clay,

tells you his poems need to be painted in blood,

tells you suicide is only an

option on rainy days,

and he laughs when he says it but

                   he always looks away


always tells you why

democracy will fail


why the stones were better than the beatles,

and he wants to know what kind of

god lets children die of cancer


he wants to know the truth about d.b. cooper

or maybe he just wants the

missing money


maybe just needs to be reassured


he has been a dead man

for far too long




a black line



poem like a dream held up to a mirror


had a vision of yr death

that meant nothing to me


got yr letter from patmos and

then another from golgotha


may and then june then

                        july and

the bodies began to stink


the priests had their machine guns

                        their bulldozers

                        their faith in a monstrous god


bone white sun in a silver sky and the

idea of distance measured in pain


the idea of

silence as a weight


man steps towards the future only

to watch it recede, looks back over his

shoulder sees nothing but the ghosts

of better days


give him a name


give him a purpose


make a list of all the people who

ever hated him

back before he was even born




a black line



other thoughts in the age of ruin


in grey january twilight, taste of

ice on metal, of rust,

                        of fear, says nothing

                        just to be safe


                        just to be sure there

                        won’t be an answer


                        won’t be a body found in the

                        river thirty miles downstream

                        with the first spring thaw,


another jumper with a pregnant

girlfriend, another baby with a name

that sounds like a lie every time

it spills out of your bruised mouth


ritual, yes, and

born of despair


born of salt and of ashes,

                             of cold fires in

                             vacant lots


sunlight in february, which is

a joke without a punchline


the car is dead and the roof collapsed

and if i were to ask for a pretty

girl to tie the noose i know

it would be you


if we were to invent a better god,

there would still be a neverending

parade of beaten and butchered



better on days like this to

save no one but yourself and

still be able to call it

a victory


a black line


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