Sunday, September 28, 2008

my future self before a mirror

it was just like you to be
lost in this nation of ambiguous pain,
to be frightened of the obvious

it was almost october

midnight, hot as hell, and the wind
blowing dead leaves &
empty garbage cans down tracy street

sound of someone crying

all of the walls you knocked down,
only to end up
with nowhere to call home

Friday, September 19, 2008

the age of arrogance, endlessly

this point i reach where i
no longer love anything or anyone

these ideas that were supposed to matter

not the house on fire but the man inside

the child asleep and
the mother driving away and
do we really need to have our faces
pressed into the blood
and the filth?

but we deserve it

i remember you wearing your
faith like a corpse

i remember your hands and your mouth

a sunlit room on the
edge of town and the sky like it
knew it would outlive us

the certainty that
mistakes had been made

that none of us were beautiful

none of us worth saving

broken glass everywhere

Monday, September 15, 2008


The flavor of John Sweet's first full length book, Human Cathedrals, mocks the writer's name; there is an utter absence of sugar. Salt is shot—sometimes heaped—in wounds, some gaping and bleeding, some disfigured with scars crisscrossing, and some still waiting infliction.

Behind the understated, slate cover of Human Cathedrals lie frequent references to the color grey and slight variations thereof: purplegrey, bluegrey, yellowgrey, pale grey and every shade of grey in between. At the brightest end of John Sweet’s spectrum, we have a half dozen mentions of blue. From The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary: blue adj. 2: melancholy; also: depressing. One is left to contemplate a conceivable connection between the cover’s complexion and the content beneath it.

Spending an afternoon in Human Cathedrals is like finding a camera at an estate sale with a roll of film still inside. When the film is developed, a slice of someone’s life tears through the skin and into the deepest cellar of belief. Repeat appearances of specific body parts grace these snapshots: thirteen mentions of hands, eight of bones, six of the heart, four of the throat, three of fingers, two of lips, skin, closed eyes, sharp teeth and a skull, one of the ribcage, neck, tongue, wrist, fist and spine.

Behind the black veil of the human cathedral, desperation, anger, failure, guilt, confusion, terror, sorrow and self destruction rumble through the poet’s tug-of-war with faith. From de chirico’s lament: "...and if i give my son only one gift in his small beautiful life it would be the word escape"; from myself a father: "...for this reason alone i place my foot on the throat of god and press...", and in the book’s opener, waiting for the day to begin: "...and it’s not an answer i’m after here but a voice loud enough to drown out my own".

Occasionally we glimpse, always from a distance, an altruistic bond to his wife and son, though within him there seems to exist detachment from the two he most reveres. Sweet presents us with a collection of raw snapshots—a boy lit on fire, the carnage of war, runaway teens, the cremation of his father shortly before his wedding, men leaving their children, abused girlfriends, suicide, alcoholism, starving mothers and ill children—a succinct and graphic exhibit of destruction.

The confessions shared in Human Cathedrals are long on suffering, short in length; it is almost as if Sweet could not endure his desperation for more than a page at a time. Although the poems sting while entering the bloodstream, you will be drawn, again and again, to the candid cathedral of human desolation offered by the shadow of John Sweet. Owning the book is like carrying a mysterious, beautiful stone in your pocket—you are never quite certain whether you’ve been cursed or blessed.

- Shelly Reed

Saturday, September 06, 2008

the same story

she is talking
about her thirteenth year

about her mother's lover

the sound of his footsteps
as she lay in bed

the press of his weight
just outside her door


it's the same story told
a thousand different ways

it's the boyfriend who
passed her on to his buddies
for beer or pot or a
new set of tires

it's everything
she was forced to do


and she is talking
about love

she is saying
she believes

is saying she doesn't
want to be alone

tells me she doesn't
expect meto understand