John Sweet

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The Surface

…hands pressed against the cold clean air,
says What we are together is crippled.

Says A flag means nothing until it’s burned.

Obvious truths, and so the war
comes as no surprise.

I wake up on a Wednesday morning and
the killer has escaped.  The children have
been found, but in pieces.  My mother has
signed the papers to have the machines
turned off.

I’ve said my good-byes to my father,
surprised myself by crying.  Thought about
Dylan singing Tears of Rage, or maybe I
only remember it this way.

It was dark in the hallways, late, two in
the morning.  Room had no windows, just
machines and a bed.  Just stale air and
the silence of waiting.

And it’s Sunday and I’m at work when
my mother calls, replaces the tension
with numb pain.  Windows finally, but
no sunlight.

Clouds and hesitant snow for three
days now, my oldest son still five years
in the future, his mother in a different
hospital in another town.

Says God is bigger than I imagined
when I go to see her.

Says I can’t remember your face
after you leave.

Listens to what I tell her, then
closes her eyes.

 Artwork by Gene McCormick

i’ll fall

sleeping in yr father’s house, early
afternoon, middle of august, and all
true heroes are dead

all gods taste the same once the
meat’s been stripped from the bone and
what i’m looking for her is forgiveness but
not from anyone i’ve ever known

small miracles in the suburbs, maybe

car on fire in the walmart parking lot and
any number of anonymous children
locked inside it

ninety degrees in the shade but
rain moving down from the north

gazing globes and rainbow spinners and
all of the roads that take us back to
the nowhere towns we were born in

this waitress from my dreams who
keeps insisting she’s my wife

tree in the back yard crashing
down by slow, heavy degrees

only a matter of time before one of
us wakes up to the news that
the other is gone

you’re not safe, you never will be

but what the fuck is this,
this man who calls on the grace of god while
raping teenage girls in a nation of
like-minded heretics,
and why would we not drive him from the city,
crucify him,
put out his eyes w/ junkies’ needles?

why would we not set fire to
the mansions of tyrants and demagogues,
warm our hands at their ruin?

why would i fight wars in other countries
when the one true enemy has always
been just outside my door?

who will be the first to die
for what i believe in?


John Sweet, b 1968, still numbered among the living.  A believer in writing as catharsis.  an optimistic pessimist.  Opposed to all organized religion and political parties.  Avoids zealots and social media whenever possible.  His latest collections include Approximate Wilderness (2016 Flutter Press) and Bastard Faith (2017 Scars Publications).  All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.