John Sweet, Shooting at the Sky

dawn marie

sunlit and cold, the two of
us breathing each other in,
the two of us holy and hushed,
despairing and brilliant and all of
the ways we choose to make the
colors of the day

all of the reasons or
all of the excuses

a landscape so full of possibility
it leaves no room for god

looks up, shoots at the sky

where the clouds broke apart for just a
frightened moment
and the sun suddenly and without warning

where every dream was of christ
but none of them were of salvation and
when she spoke it was in someone
else’s voice

when she asked if there was any
reason to keep on going it
was too cold to answer

leaves torn from poisoned trees in
bitter november wind and
all of our doors locked against it

the illusion of safety

the children growing older

a weapon hidden in every room and
then a body found buried
beneath some suburban back porch

a woman naked and
chained in the basement

smaller wars with only victims and
you said this was better
because it cost you nothing

a river run black with blood
and you said it tasted fine

said there was nothing left for me
to do but close my eyes and jump

approaching memory

and road salt and ashes,
sky the color of dust, fingers
that trace the warm curves
of your body

everything else is background

all words are repeated until
they’re bled dry of meaning

desperation should never be
an excuse for art

i think i’d whisper the truth in a crowd of anonymous strangers

all summer stoned down in
mexico and then disappeared

one body for every shallow grave

one hundred miles to the ocean

flowers and weeds and barbed wire

the butchered corpses of
farmers and nuns left in
roadside ditches

cop shot down in his driveway

had the sound of some other song
playing in the back of my mind when i
called you to break the news,
and you told me i was a liar

do you remember?

early autumn and
moonlight in a dark room

first hint of frost
just behind the eyes

kept hearing on the news that it
wasn’t a war but the
death toll just kept on rising

the prisoners all wore masks as
they were lined up
along the water’s edge

man with no eyes read a poem his
daughter had written in those
last feverish weeks before she vanished,
and the priests just laughed

made the sign of the cross as
they cut out his tongue

gave him a shovel then
showed him where to dig

poem w/ migraine

these upright bodies held in
place w/ taut wire

blindness, sickness, smell of vomit
& decay and she asked is
this my love poem?

she said i think my husband knows

you understand


man murders his two-year-old son
because it’s easier than
paying child support

son dies as easily as
most children do


saw a girl once on a porn site
who i think i knew in high school,
but i could’ve been wrong

it’s a big country

i would rate god less than what
i would rate an orgasm

politicians i would
feed to sick and starving dogs

it’s like cars w/out mufflers at 2 a.m.

it’s like my youngest boy
awake and crying

cat dead in the middle of the road

bleeding horse stumbling as
he reaches the punchline

hasn’t been able to get it right
since the soldiers cut
out his tongue

John Sweet, born in 1968, is still numbered among the living. He is a believer in writing as catharsis, an optimistic pessimist, and opposed to all organized religion and political parties. John avoids zealots and social media whenever possible. His latest collections include Approximate Wilderness (Flutter Press, 2016) and Bastard Faith (Scars Publications, 2017). All pertinent facts of his life are buried somewhere in his writing.

To read more of John, click here.

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