All Moments Without End. {poetry}

Begin underground

open your eyes

poison in the soil and sweaty
grey money in the pockets
of smiling politicians

new computers in the schools, but
the students are all filled
with cancer

do you remember this story?

The irony of dying young
in the age of greed

16-year-old girl on the bedroom floor
picking up the chalky remains of
her bones, and what can you
do but kill the killers and,
even then,
what can you do?

Preaching against violence is like
preaching against religion,
but still

look, we were fucking in her car, in the
parking lot of some abandoned
factory on the edge of town,
and then she was dropping
me off a few blocks from my
apartment and going back
to her husband

it’s a story with no deeper meaning
because the ending doesn’t matter

accusations, tears, blood or maybe
only some of them or maybe
none at all

October, let’s say, and the
palest sun you can imagine
hanging like some disembodied
fist in a Max Ernst sky

blue air

blue hills

dead leaves and cold and the names
of your children spelled out
in tar across the northbound lane
of the interstate

don’t confuse
escape with cowardice

drive, but without direction

the animals have been starving
since before you were born,
the cities falling in on themselves

move from one
desperate apartment
to another

tell these strangers
that you love them

smile when they say it back

remember, no one ever sees the image of
the Virgin Mary on the billboards
in this town, or of Elvis, or of Christ

no one ever tells the story
of the first Thanksgiving

some drunk you’ve never met
lies down to sleep on the
railroad tracks on a
bitter autumn night then wakes
up dead, half of him where he
passed out and the other
half gone

find the humor in this

find the spot where the
roof will start to leak

wait for rain

for the scream of
brakes out in the street

this kid on the ground and
his bike is mangled and
his skull is crushed

go deeper, and
his wings are broken

go underground

tell your mother you want to be
a poet and then look for your
father, but he’s
nowhere to be found

his favorite bar is a bank now
and all of his friends are
old and frightened

his ashes are on a
shelf in the living room

the water heater dies on a
Monday morning

pipes break in the bathroom

in the age of
blind indifference, what I
believe in is fear

what I surrender to
is depression

bright blue sky in every direction
and the memories of old lovers,
scars on the backs of empty hands,
on the backs of sleeping children,
and when you finally figure out
how much in this world really
isn’t your fault, you begin to
understand how unimportant
you really are

you start to tell the story of
how you lost your virginity and
the backyards are littered with
faded toys and broken glass

the fields beyond them are
vast, like oceans, are bottomless,
are thick with blood

dig down just a little and
it all comes to the surface and
if you want to kill the Indians
you need to begin by
slaughtering the buffalo

if you want to kill the few who
survive, make them march

get drunk

attack the camps just before
daybreak, set fire to the homes,
grind the skulls of sleeping
babies beneath your polished boots

rape the women, then
rape them again

make the men watch, then
make them die slowly

burn the corpses to
thaw the ground, then dig

telling the story will be like
opening your veins

think about it

what we have here is a
nation built on movies

make the pain seem real

paint the blood bright red

what I believe in, or
what I want to believe in, is
the idea of Christ

what I object to is blind
obedience towards any god

there are always reasons to kill,
but butchery is something
else altogether, and of course
you look like a fool trying
to explain this to your children

of course I run away from
everyone but my sons

the house is empty, half the
rooms filled with soft yellow light,
the other half cold and shadowed

the hills spin in
circles around us

go higher

thirty thousand feet and
the engines cut out

thirty thousand feet and
the bomb goes off

270 dead while I’m stuck in
freeway traffic, trying to find
something other than
static on the radio

girl next to me is crying and I will
think about her for the next
fifteen years, the warmth of her
breasts, sound of her laughter,
but we never really had a chance

we were telling stories

we were marking time, just waiting
for spring, for sunlight, for the
rest of our lives

I was an asshole then and I’m an
asshole now, and we’re talking
about half my life here

we’re building unsafe houses
from the bones of ghosts

of missing children

you dig and you dig, but
all you find is earth

an eight-year-old boy
twenty years later is still
an eight year-old boy

truck driver hangs himself in
his jail cell, and all I
feel is happy

minister’s wife is found naked
and dead on the side of the
interstate seventy miles north of here

not winter yet, but soon

blankets over the windows and
my mother calls to tell me
that my father is in a
hospital 800 miles away

Easter Sunday and the DTs and so
she flies down to get him

takes him another five years
to finally kill himself and by then
I’ve driven on every road out of this
fucking town at least a thousand
times only to end up back
where I began

a broken shovel

a pile of unpaid bills

late afternoon and then early
evening, dusk and then twilight

the soft weight of my
children asleep

the simple beauty of our lives
intertwined too complexly
to ever be undone

all moments without end.


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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