john sweet

the ruined throne

born of outcasts and then
an outcast yourself

broken hands
digging in frozen soil

a small comfort at least
knowing you’re better than the
soldiers who slaughter children on
the orders of rabid dogs and then
a bitter day towards the
end of winter

woman down the street wakes up
with a hangover to discover
she’s smothered
her baby during the night

first thought is to run

her despair is only for herself

sunlight like a silent scream
and the wind everywhere

the deaths of lesser gods
reported and then forgotten

we wait for the phone to ring
and we wait for the roof
to collapse and
we wait

no heart
no central motion

no heat

no core

close your eyes and what you
feel is the world we’ve
spent our lifetimes building
starting to tear itself apart

briefly, and in flames

a week of luminous
grey skies and damp heat

a lifetime of inadequate saviors

starlings and grackles and
dingy laundry refusing to dry in
overrun back yards

are you still here?

are you still expecting mercy?


no one wants to know about love
when the house is on fire

no one cares about an indifferent god
but that’s all you’ve ever had,

four walls and a door and your
life seen through dirty windows

the ruined bodies of nuns buried in
the sandy soil between
one starving country and the next and
how much could we get for
their bones?

who puts these prices on
human misery?

we have been lying to each other
for so long now that
anything less feels obscene

a phone, ringing

you are thinking of words
and then you are saying them

you are writing them down
and hoping for religion

for illumination

and look at all of those
who have failed before you

look at the priests
with their pedophile god

at the children with their
tongues cut out

was this the world you imagined?

do you remember asking lennon
if he knew who he was
as he lay bleeding to death on a
dirty sidewalk?

and maybe he answered or
maybe not and
maybe the car was going too fast

your grandfather drunk but
aware of what he was doing

the house not a home
but a prison

windows and doors and the
potential they held for being broken

whatever reasons you had for
wanting in or wanting out

always this need to keep moving

with impermanence, with hope

the nothingness of grey sky
seen through cheap plastic blinds

message on the answering machine from
the guy who put the chimney cap on,
says you need a liner, too

says it’s the condensation that tears
everything apart from the inside out




one corner of the ceiling in this
room cracked and discolored

leaves clogging the gutters

the poem is
an admission of defeat

i can write i love you or i
can write i hate myself

i can find some middle ground
where all of the missing
children are buried

houses where the rooms they
disappeared from are untouched
for years, for decades

pictures thick with dust

the nothingness of
forgotten moments

a grey sky seen through a
dirty windshield as i drive to
pick up my sons from their
mother’s apartment

i have wasted my life clinging
to so many useless fears

john sweet, b 1968, still numbered among the living. A believer in writing as catharsis. Opposed to all organized religion and political parties. His latest collections include APPROXIMATE WILDERNESS (2016 Flutter Press) and the limited edition chapbooks HEATHEN TONGUE (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A BASTARD CHILD IN THE KINGDOM OF NIL (2018 Analog Submission Press). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.
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