John Sweet 


preliminary sketch for a human landscape

each day
is a cathedral
each moment a prayer

forget god

forget christ

see the sky
as beautiful

white and luminous and
every child starving
or every child

and maybe there are
other possibilities

and maybe
some of them are

don't mistake this
for a promise


fear of what i've become

finally at
the edge of thirty
i am almost human

am not beautiful
but can at least wear
my scars without

can hold
my newborn son
up to the first pale light
of any summer morning
and know that the sky
will not burn itself

and what do i do with
these words knotted into
tight balls of rage that
refuse to come up or
be swallowed?

how do i live in a town
filled with the sounds of
trains never arriving?


the god of starving dogs
is not a god at all

the woman
who loves pain
believes she can still
be happy

believes that
wanting a thing is
enough to make it happen
despite all of the times
i've proven her

and it could be
anyone's christ nailed to
anyone's cross beneath
this cold hard sun
but it's not

it's my own lack 
of faith
like a jagged piece
of glass caught
just behind the eyes

it's a poem
finally poured out
at three in the morning
when language is
reduced to
its most basic form

when anything
that can be said
can only be said in
a whisper and only to
the wrong person

i have spent all of
my adult life
making this the one
absolute truth


self-portrait with my son, age 2 1/2

and after reading six poems
by an ex-junkie
on a tuesday evening
i give my son a bath

i listen to him name
each plastic animal that floats
in the water

i think about how
unsympathetic i really am


wishing despair

driving home through the
threat of rain

through the almost-dark
and the sad glare of headlights
and the strange indifference 
of war

do you trust anyone who
would waste their days
defining poetry?

can you accept anger as religion?

what you remember
is the god of starving dogs

the one he beat without mercy
and the one he drove to the edge of suicide
and how in the end he was just
another sad human being

a man working third shift
six nights a week
in a failing restaurant

a man with a wife he had
learned to hate
and a child held hostage between them
and no more disciples

no more venom
and nothing to eat but his
mother's ashes

nothing to wash them down with
but gasoline

this is the thought that
makes you smile


sunday afternoon, watching my son sleep

in the whiteout afternoon
she is screaming something
or maybe
she is just screaming

it's an old film
and she is naked
with or skin on fire
or no -

she has just found
her husband's body in
pile of corpses

the guards are
dragging her away

what matters is that someone
is dead
or is about to die

a man holds
a severed head
up to the camera and smiles

the picture is shaky
as it focuses on a soldier
kicking a young
pregnant woman in the
face and stomach

the blood is never as
bright as you would expect
and is often mistaken
for something else


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