John Sweet


i will not



i will not

view the world with



not with the scars

of my teenage years still

visible on my face

fourteen years later and

not with the unborn children

from my twenties who

cannot call me



i remember

that i saved no one


remember too many

two a.m. phone calls from

women in love with

their own pain


in love with

someone else's anger

and i was young enough

to believe that

any of us could change


i was drunk and

i was suffocating

beneath the weight of

everything i didn't

know and now

all that's changed is

that i'm sober


all i've learned is to


growing old




poem for my son's tiny hands



there is a woman

beyond this stained

sheet of paper who has

condemned me to hang from

the bones of her god


who has never written a poem

for my son's tiny hands

but i will forgive

her this


she is deaf after

forty years of listening to

nothing but the ocean


is blind after too many

empty hours spent staring

at the light


she tells me the names of

her own children and each one

is gravel caught

in her throat


each one is a flower

lost in

a field of ashes


what i learn from this

is that something

at some point

has burned




poem for the end of the world



or maybe what i'm

afraid of becoming is

pollock in his last months


a man with no art


with endless rivers of

self-pity and rage


i have sat quietly in the

fragile lucidity of

certain hungover mornings

waiting without hope for the

words to flow


i have thrown rocks

through windows


and what if jesus christ was

only a person who lived and died

with the same lack of purpose

as the rest of us?


what if blasphemy is

no longer

a word with any meaning?


i know i'm not the first

to ask this question


the things we think matter

will only end up

footnotes or curios


the canvas covered in

brutal layers of color is

no more profound than the

one left blank


it doesn't have to be

a lie

but probably is









your sister

alone in her kitchen

refuses to bleed


she is a distance

an empty space that

can't be filled



you tell me


this is too cold





your sister

alone in her bedroom

wraps her heart

in thorns



two small spaces

for her children to

slip through

and nothing more


you read these words

over my shoulder

then walk away


you are learning

the bottomless weight

of silence






your sister

alone in your mind

is alone


there is an enemy


but i am not him


you are

already planning

for the day when

this isn't the





the age of minotaurs



forget poetry


forget the sickly

black weight

of priests


this was

someone's daughter



a tired argument


but the age of minotaurs

is over


tired arguments are

all we have left




there is beauty

and there is beauty

willfully destroyed

and the road between

the two is only

twenty-seven years



and she is naked

and the camera is rolling

and then she is naked

and then she is



the gun sliding neatly

into her mouth

the brain exploding


and what can you say

about this?


how do you

make it better?



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