poetry

I Understand the Need for Victims, but I Refuse to Be One. {poetry}

The city is what I thought it would be,
and I live here
expecting to not be found

the sky is dull pewter,
streaked with dust,
and the sun is only itself

watery shadows in
the spaces between houses,
down these streets with their
dead-end futures bound to their empty pasts

no escape and no retreat

the steady heat of decay but
no warmth
and that I am not a god

am not a priest, but a
poet maybe?

no, I am not a poet

am a failure, I guess, but not at anything in particular

a man in hiding, but still
these people find me

long-lost drinking buddies and
deadbeats with hungry eyes

the underage sisters of ex-girlfriends
and they tell me they love me

they tell me they need to get high

need money for their babies
but I’m not listening

I’m late for work

the rent is due

always some minor crisis

the father, the son, the holy ghost and
one of them says he knows I’ve been
fucking his wife, but I haven’t

I’m in hiding here

I’ve learned ther secret world of weedy
back yards and back alleys, of vacant lots and
the muttered silences beneath bridges

Point A to Point B and
am I a father?

Depends on who you ask

a coward, yes, and a prophet,
but the truths I foretell are still
20 years away at this point

the sound of the freeway is a muted thing,
the sound of distant surf,
of whispered conversations in a cemetery and
are we strangers, you and I?

I think maybe we’ve known each other
in some version of the past

think maybe we’ve both slammed too many
doors in anger to find our way back to
whatever rooms we have in common

loss is the great equalizer and
regret the perfect fuel for all of these
machines we’ve built to go nowhere in,
and Cassie laughs when she reads this

says maybe I’m a philosopher

says maybe I’m a failed suicide,
which is probably more interesting,
but I am not a conquistador

I am not a politician,
not a whore or a martyr

I am less than whatever I’ve
been accused of being, and I am more than
what I’ve been given credit for, and
the city is what I need it to be

the sky here is always
a calming shade of poison and
each prayer a shadow in a
shadowless world

and I understand the need for victims,
but I refuse to be one

hope will be enough to get us through
until the exact moment that
it no longer is

do you believe me?

Seems odd that we have these choices

an obvious answer and a wrong one
and we blow it every time

we speak too soon or we wait too long

the words get caught

I hate you or I love you or
some other meaningless drivel and
the city keeps changing by
staying the same

I define myself by the
failures of those who accuse me of
being a failure

we will all learn what it
means to be lost.

***

John Sweet is a believer in writing as catharsis. He’s opposed to all organized religion and political parties. He avoids zealots and social media whenever possible. His latest collections include Heathen Tongue (Kendra Steiner Editions), A Bastard Child in the Kingdom of Nil (2018 Analog Submission Press) and A Flag on Fire is a Song of Hope (2019 Scars Publication). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.

***

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