No Ghosts: A Triptych in Ten Fragments. {poetry}




No ghosts

some days you
forget this but
on others

on others you
do just fine

you show mercy

you bleed

not a lot but
enough to
let you know
you’re alive

enough to keep the
glass half-full.


No ghosts and
no apologies

live with fear and depression
and live with despair

the past is there to
be dissected but
good luck trying to
put it back together again

good luck trying
to sustain the
joy you felt during
that last summer
before the flood

we’ve made it to
the dark ages now.


Ghosts, no ghosts

empty streets like rivers of
dust flowing between
dull white houses and
do you need proof that
all silence is meaningless?

Do you begin to doubt god
when so many children
are starving
are raped
are butchered by ignorant,
gutless cowards
drunk on power? Good.


No ghosts

no objects without shadows

late afternoon
early evening and the
moment for redemption arrives
and then it passes

sound of a church bell
ringing in the distance

sound of nothing
making a sound

if I were sorry
it’s here I
would choose to tell you


No ghosts in
empty evening fields,
just the shadows of trees 200 feet long

single cloud in a
blue sky and
the children playing games

strangers crouching down
in the tall grass
out past the village

siren songs and knives out
and no one ever believes
how the story ends until
it’s too late

no one ever
wants to hear it again


And ghosts,
of course

everywhere and always
no matter how often we
deny it, and the clock at
six minutes to three

the train always
leaving in the distance

your life always wasted

keep telling me I’m wrong
but I know you like
I know myself

we hold a broken window
between us and
call it a mirror

we get so fucking high
on this pure, glittering
rush of self-hatred


No ghosts

no sunlight without shadows

learned this from
de Chirico
back before he found god

learned it from Tanguy
and then Kay went and
put a bullet
through her heart

went and bled out all
of the joy I’d been
trying to lay down
on paper


Sits up in bed
and smiles

arms wide open
says no ghosts

looks past me and
out to the future


Say it quietly, say
no ghosts

to the wall or to
yourself and
then learn

the only good god is the
one who never needs to be
invented and so you wash your
hands in the river of filth and
then pick up your youngest child

I scream against the
darkness of empty rooms to
see if anyone answers

it’s a long way down
from here for
all of us


And then finally
late afternoon, no
ghosts, only shadows

early evening and
the slow spread of despair

cracked and
potholed parking lots

pools of rusty water

abandoned factories here
in the golden age of nothing and
whoever calls them home

pretty words for
meaningless deaths

wars and genocides and failed
revolutions to ensure that
none of the children live to
become adults and then
late afternoon and then
early evening but
no ghosts

no shadows

only corpses.


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), the limited edition Heathen Tongue (Kendra Steiner Editions) and A Bastard Child in the Kingdom of Nil (2018 Analog Submission Press). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.


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