archives, poetry

Come What May, We Dance the Days Away. {poetry}


Some like-minded fucker walking down
his own dead-end street over November leaves and
the bones of children, silence of ex-wives hiding naked in
overgrown backyards, dull grey mutter of
abandoned factories,
of crows and then

go back to the beginning… further

look for a time or a place without pain
but no

two people make a war,
three a betrayal

despair and hopelessness look the same
from a distance, so move closer

what changes?

the rhythm of light and dark, the shadows of birds
caught in the teeth of approaching winter

a house among houses suddenly gone
in a meaningless explosion

teenage daughter raped every afternoon by her
mother’s boyfriend in an upstate trailer and the father
buried or the father in jail or the father just gone

maybe just a song lost in a soft haze of static at the wrong end
of the dial, and then this other man, this like-minded
fucker in his two-room apartment

has his notebook filled
with other people’s fears

has this view from his second-story window of
someone’s ex-wife in a dead grey backyard

and this woman on the other end of the phone who says
my husband’s coming to beat the shit out of you
and he laughs but still locks the door

view of rusting antennas and weed-filled empty lots
from his third-story window,
grills and bicycles and
faded plastic toys and what if there are
no more virtuous wars to be won?

what if there never were
any to begin with?

but still he writes

the idea of death to avenge death

the idea of suicide

always these abstractions and simplifications

always the hope for salvation

and all it takes is a handful of pills on any
frozen sunlit Sunday afternoon and
none of us are feeling any pain

this one coughing up blood
in the bathroom sink

this one with his girlfriend out on
West Creek Road,
the two of them on fire beneath some one-lane bridge

doesn’t know he only has six months left with her
before she disappears forever, and
what if he did?

we all fuck everything up
given the chance

sorrow is addictive and best left alone and
the poem wants to breathe,
wants to scratch and scream,
but in the end it can only stumble

in the end it can only be about one person,
about the pain of loss,
about fire turned inward

this like-minded fucker maybe
or even his father
dead now for 20 years and what he passed on was
the gift for self-hatred

the knowledge of inevitable failure

and who among us has hung on to their
childhood heroes, and why?

where the bodies are buried along the edges of
the highway, flowers grow,
and this is something but not enough

we are all believers
but only in wealth and personal gain

only in gods who will whore themselves for our pleasure,
and down this cracked and faded street with the
cemetery at the end there are the sons and daughters of
hopeless junkies rolling naked in their own filth

at the end of each story there is the
promise of a new one, or maybe the threat

am I saying this right?

in the age of charred remains there will always be
these like-minded fuckers with their
unhappy smiles and their emotionless eyes

beneath the flat grey skies of November
I no longer cast a shadow

I dig shallow graves to bury the past,
but there’s always too much

waitress in the storeroom locks the door behind her
pulls up her skirt
says she’s leaving her boyfriend anyway

says there’s a difference between fucking and love
and which one have we been talking about here?

’92 maybe
and Cobain still alive and
the husband never shows up

is pulled over by the police just a half mile from
his own apartment and his wife in tears
with the baby in her arms

shaking hands and she needs a drink or a
joint but the baby won’t stop screaming

this like-minded fucker on the other end of
the phone won’t stop laughing

will spend the next 20 years waiting to hear from the
woman who’s gone for good
and then the 20 after that
and he will tell himself that it’s
important to have a purpose in life

he will marry a complete stranger

will prove himself a failure as a husband
as a father
as a concerned citizen
and the factories in all of the decent god-fearing towns
will keep spilling their poison into the soil

deformed babies maybe
or slow painful deaths and always
the promise of hush money
which buys back nothing

the end of one injustice always
bleeding into the beginning of the next

the age of absolute null
finally come to pass in this
nation of like-minded fuckers.


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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