John Sweet, The Withered Heart


34 and tired of being
the dead man’s son

tired of hallowed ground

of grey-suited demigods with the
heads of carrion birds and
what i knew how to do was laugh

what i wore to the funeral
was my cloak of thorns

my shirt of blood

and me with the party girls afterwards,
fucked up and fucking in some
shitty motel room in some
nowhere factory town and
when i woke up the next morning
i was 26 and alone

when i finally managed to
crawl back to the house i grew up in
i was 7 and terrified of the man
who met me at the door

i was 42 and disgusted,
looking down at some asshole who’d
pissed himself on the
bathroom floor

we were all just marking time,
waiting for the
news of our death

the somnambulist drunk in a stranger’s backyard

and then, after the
parade is over,
there’s nothing left but the rest of your life

blue skies,
maybe lovers you can also consider

maybe sweetness enough to keep the
pain of their leaving from
blinding you

a belief in the smaller days

or the punchline
which is god bleeding out on the
edge of a deserted highway,
or the sunlight
which is a bitter blue

in the age of despair

all the ones you love when you’re
finally through being in love with yourself,
and so you ask the girl who tells you that
christ is hope why she doesn’t
smile anymore

we get high or
we go to sleep

wake up lost in the
wrong season in the wrong year

good fucking times with someone’s
runaway sister and no money for
gas and no money for rent but
still talk of heading down to oaxaca

still this idea of living forever

postcards for all of you
when i get there

the withered heart

let the image be the idea

let the sun be the sun, but
let it shine in the kingdom of the blind

joy and fear both

the promise of hope which is
not the same as the reality of it

at some point you realize this,
but acceptance always takes longer

a lifetime wasted, which you argue is
not the same thing as a lifetime stoned

blow jobs in the back seat and
the sound of some stranger’s laughter

a truck stop at the end of summer or
the far side of the k-mart parking lot

says lets drive but his
nose won’t stop bleeding

hands won’t stop shaking

been making some potent shit up in
the hills behind the trailer park,
been selling it at the bar and
how many times will we die in our lives
do you think?

whose lives are finally worth saving
other than our own?

make a fist
and there’s your answer

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (Scars Publications, 2019) and A DEAD MAN, EITHER WAY (Kung Fu Treachery Press, 2020).

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