• John Sweet

Selected Poetry by John Sweet

Photo Source: Pixabay

all lifetimes collapsed into a single moment of doubt

you and i in the coldest room of

a dead man’s house and

in january

this is all there is

five below zero at three in the Afternoon and

who am i to

tell you that words are meaningless?


we cannot be sorry for

every shade of grey

we will never cast shadows with

the lights out and the curtains drawn

and i will kiss the frost from yr flesh and

you will teach me the hidden names of

the tuatha de danann and in this

way we become holy

in the seconds before the

first shot of the massacre is fired

there is talk of a better future

it only lasts as long as it takes for

every child present to be slaughtered

redon, obliquely

afraid all afternoon,

grey shadow on a white page,

flat grey sky over flat grey houses and then

dig deeper,

past suicide and down to buried cities,

hidden churches,

the bones of saints

lie on the couch with a mouthful of

poison and dream of

empty severed hands

in waterlogged back yards

dream of rust

but without falling asleep

this is the trick to being christ

this is the weight of despair

everyone wants to breathe and

everyone wants to be stoned but

the baby is crying

rain turns to snow and

the future falls into ruin

the trees that line the streets here are

all dead and rotting and

the streets themselves go nowhere

escape is an illusion

and so dig deeper

the obvious atrocities

the drowning season

a desert full of empty hands

pushing up through the sand and

what will you give them to carry?

how deep are you willing to dig into

the frozen earth to find pure joy?

hit just one vein of sugared blood

and all the pain

becomes worthwhile

the frightened child, always

this january sunlight

on december snow,

all dim blue sky and frozen clouds,

all washed-out colors like

memory or dream

you are here

despite everything

you are loved but seen only

through dust-streaked windows

distance is the key

i am never close enough to hold or i am

always pushing you away

and we mistake confession for apology

mistake solitude for escape and

the days are all filled with long lists of

gods who would like to see us dead

the air thick with the

memory of gasoline

of cold engines grinding

themselves into dust

such stunted minds,

such crippled dreams

so many hungry saviors

with the heads of crows

only the warmth of burning witches,

but it’s better than no warmth at all

[don’t die; it’s over]

red-haired one says something, or the

prettiest one, says

it feels good, right? and

smiles, and i remember this part, the

first part at the kitchen table with

the red-haired one and the prettiest one

the quietest one, who says nothing,

eyes closed, smoking,

smiling, everyone

smiling and the one who says it’s supposed to

feel good,

who says you can trust us, says

friends, says lean back,

just sit still and let it

feel good, and what i learn years later

is the smell of pot

what i remember is that

it’s always summer,

that the prettiest one laughs, says

open your mouth as the red-haired one

leans forward, lips to lips and breathes

into me, fills me up,

and it’s summer and

it’s always summer

and the quietest one


prettiest one unbuttons, says it’s okay,

says you can touch,

says you can kiss, and

it’s summer because

it’s always summer

it’s daylight, but my sister is asleep, my

parents gone, and the

prettiest one says

like this, says like this, and then

says it’s okay, see?

says you won’t even remember

says it feels good, right,

and i’m thinking

i’m on my back, staring up at

my parents’ bedroom ceiling

i’m opening my mouth to speak, to

breathe, and then i’m filled up again,

the red-haired one, lips to lips, my

eyes watering, my eyes closed, but i

can see the quiet one smile

i hear the red-haired one laugh

and it feels good and it

feels good and it feels good until

i don’t feel anything at all

like sunshine smeared to grey

learn to sing w/

yr lips sewn together

learn to shut the hell up

to bleed w/ yr eyes

these are the new

dark ages, right?

every room, the room of

murdered children,

every punchline an epitaph,

and we were fucking on the

kitchen floor when the

first bombs fell

asked if you were

worried about yr boyfriend,

and you just laughed

just dug yr nails in

a little deeper

told me i talked

too goddamn much and

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications) and A DEAD MAN, EITHER WAY (2020 Kung Fu Treachery Press).

If you would like to learn more about John Sweet, you can find his website here and his Instagram here.