John Tustin


The assassin waits
in your wardrobe
behind the clothes
you cannot bring yourself
to wear anymore;

with the damp seeds
of the secrets
rotting through their pockets

and you open the door
to meet him
with your throat exposed,
your hands full of soil;
your wrists already
your heart craving
bullet holes.


Glenn Gould was nuts
but I like the way he played The Goldberg Variations,
mumbling and all.
Dave Brubek seemed like a good guy
with a steady home life:
married seventy years,
well-raised kids.
I listened to Take Five over and over the other night.
Warren Zevon was drunk
and fell of the stage once
when he tried to dance on his piano.
Another night he played Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,
just his voice and his piano playing
rumbling all over the auditorium,
received a well-deserved standing O. 

There’s room for everyone,
as long as there’s talent there
and the desire to communicate it.


Soldiers are afraid to love.
The tips of their rifles could go off at any minute.
Soldiers are afraid to hate
Because the tips of their rifles could stop differentiating 
A topic from a target.

Soldiers are afraid to breathe
In the rarified air around a General.
Soldiers are afraid to touch
The air around a place that has not gone up in smoke.

A soldier’s charm resides
Below the waist.
A soldier saves his best words 
For letters to mother
Or when under the hot lights of interrogation.

Soldiers are afraid to love.
They never smile when gathering under a flagpole
Or a fragile flame.
Soldiers are more afraid to live than to die.
They only cry at night,
Alone after the lights go out

And they never make any noise when they do.
Soldiers are afraid to dance
And their eyes are wet and shine like bayonets
Under the light of the moon when it’s full.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. His first poetry collection is forthcoming from Cajun Mutt Press. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.
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