False Comfort Among the Pale Grey Souls of the Martyred. {poetry}


Can’t spend your whole life just
going over cliffs

can’t keep calling up the dead man’s son and
asking for his father
no matter how funny it is

listen, we’ve got the entire shit-heap of December to
crawl through still
and then January after that

we’ve got the war to consider
and my smartass son looks over my
shoulder here and asks which one?
and I never have an answer

people die in horrible meaningless ways
every day
so just accept it, okay?

no symbolism, no significance
just big ugly
piles of butchered meat

just rape and genocide and flags all stained with
the filth of bloodthirsty dogs

are you with me so far?

slogans aren’t the same thing
as actual ideas

politicians are no better than
children who torture small animals
but why waste time talking about bleeding
you know?

just shut up and try to stop it

just send postcards home from the
deserts and the slums and
the fucked-up nightmare of Disneyland

don’t breathe but
don’t hold your breath either

find that middle ground where
no one will hate you and
then realize you’re still hated

not much of a punchline
I know
but you can’t keep putting your fists
through bedroom windows
without getting scarred

can’t spend every minute of every hour
with one hand over your heart and
the other covering your nuts
and what about these people who won’t stop
whining about the moment of truth?

fuck them

truth itself is a lie
or at least an ever-shifting illusion,
a fault line to build your pale eggshell house on,
and now that I’ve begun to grow old
I can finally see that I was
never quite able to grow up

and I remember the car crash but
not where we were going when it happened

I stand in the backyard watching
the fire spread from house to house

a small moment in a small town and
a small town in a world of
pilots and gunners and bombadiers

impersonal killing as big business

rhythm guitarists and songs about Jesus and
an endless stream of teenage groupies
learning the concept of fucking as commerce

gotta kill the president or
you gotta kill the pope

gotta get that fifteen minutes for yrself and
I remember the summer I was 25

knife in my hand and running down
Nanticoke after some asshole who’d tried to
stab a waitress, and I
remember the feel of sunlight on my face

remember a song by Catherine Wheel
stuck in my head and
I’d been depressed for six or seven years
by this point

hated myself in some vague abstract way, and I
remember walking back home later that
same day with Colleen’s number
written on my wrist

no hope and no chance for redemption

middle-aged without warning and
none of us any smarter for it

the mutilated hands of St. Sebastian nailed to
a billboard out on the interstate

woman I love telling me why she’s unhappy

grey snow and dirty rain and the
idea of dogs so easily
confused with the idea of wolves

the poem I meant to write lost somewhere
between my fingertips and the page and
I spent a lot of time back then
wandering blind through fields of ghosts

spent a lot of time dead and
just waiting to be something else

watched my heart pumping blood out into
the frozen sunlit air and she wakes up alone
in a stranger’s bed on her 24th birthday,
mouth thick with vodka and blowjobs

walks home and lies down
on the bathroom floor

all of those fading dreams about enemies
and tyrants, and every motherfucker she fears
is always the one she should fear the most.


John Sweet is a believer in writing as catharsis. An optimistic pessimist, he’s opposed to all organized religion and political parties. He avoids zealots and social media whenever possible. His latest collections include Approximate Wilderness (2016 Flutter Press), Bastard Faith (2017 Scars Publications) and the limited edition Heathen Tongue (Kendra Steiner Editions). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.


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