Tuesday, August 28, 2012

psalm with the weight of nails through flesh

pale yellow sunlight on
the bleeding horse
and the shadows he casts swallowed by
the shadow of something larger

the houses ending suddenly where
these barren fields begin

wind and the smell of gasoline
and the sound of the interstate

the idea of somewhere better
which is probably a lie

there is no escaping disease

there is no escaping addiction

look at these men
who have died for god
and then look at the catholic church

look at the diseased fingers
of priests
picking through the bones of
the past

count the number
of children raped in the name of
there is
so much left to destroy

Sunday, August 26, 2012

support KSE

from Bill Shute -

"Good to have John Sweet back at KSE for another poetry chapbook. Mr. Sweet, working out of south-central New York state, has been a kind of quiet warrior in the contemporary poetry world, eschewing the usual self-delusional self-promotion and the laughable “outlaw” posing of so many who use attitude to compensate for lack of talent. Sweet’s work speaks well for itself—no hype or backstory is needed to prop it up.

Simply put, John Sweet’s poems are terse, finely sculpted, razor-sharp pieces that capture the violence and illness under the surface of contemporary life. On the level of the intimate relationship, the family, the community, the nation, the world—Sweet presents closely observed episodes, full of tension at the level of the phrase and the line and the stanza, and sets them up like spring-loaded traps. This new collection of eight poems, BRAVE RETREAT, examines many subjects: families who talk but don’t communicates, the burning secrets inside those closest to us that never come out until too late, the bleakness of Rust Belt America, the futility of overseas military adventures as we surrender to forces we don’t understand on the home front, the burning need to create and to change and the ways those with that need are snuffed out by society or simply suffocated by marginalization. And it’s all presented in the form of specifics and precise details with not a wasted or flaccid word—the precision of a Cid Corman, the caustic understatement of a Samuel Beckett, but in a natural contemporary American voice. Though I don’t believe Mr. Sweet is a poet who does many readings, there is an exciting sense of drama and pacing captured on the page that makes it seem as if the poems are being read to you dramatically by an actor with great subtlety but capable of great menace—think Willem Dafoe or the early Christopher Walken. This is the America of 2012, and it’s the melodrama of life in any period. No one captures the pain, the stepped-on and discarded dreams, the way John Sweet does.

The new poetry chapbook from JOHN SWEET, “Brave Retreat” (KSE #216)…scalding shards of verse from this master craftsman, pieces found broken and abandoned on the internal battlefields of contemporary America…from the author of Human Cathedrals, Continuum, and This Moment Reflected In Ice…proud to have him back for another KSE chapbook…fads come and go, but John Sweet remains a constant, the real thing in a world of posers and dilettantes…."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

falling from great heights into vast oceans

strange standing here naked
with a gun to my head,
but this is the new world

wanted to move out to california,
but i was tied to this house, to
this job, to these children

woke up sweating and terrified
from a dream with no meaning

heard water in the basement

tasted rot, tasted decay

not sunlight, you understand,
but this numbing sensation
of suffocation

this false hope of
50 degree afternoons
at the beginning of february

the threat of freezing to death
replaced by the threat
of drowning

the feeling of rust flaking
down from great heights
onto bare skin

and did i mention the gun?

can you picture the hills
all painted a
soft, despairing grey?

we will never be more in
love than we are at this moment

we will never be more alone

choose, but then keep
your choice a secret

talking about famine



Tuesday, August 21, 2012


and we thought that when the war was over the blood would all flow backwards, and we were wrong

or living like a wounded animal, which
isn’t really the same thing as living,
but there you are in your collapsing hole
with your open wounds and your blood trail

here we are after 25 years of winter

½ a lifetime spent digging at the same
small patch of frozen ground with bare hands

low tide

faulty compass

and what i find out too late is
that anger isn’t enough

is that silence isn’t an alternative to
suicide, but a slower version of it and so
                                            we scream
we make ourselves such easy targets

open the door and all of that pale, blinding
sunlight just blows holes straight through you

Sunday, August 19, 2012

w/ wings of clay

small gestures at the end of
summer, these anonymous lawns,
weed-choked flower beds, these
spider webs spun between branches
and the corners of windshields in
the first damp light of day, and
i would tell you here that i
love you but my voice would be
a whisper and you would be
3000 miles away

i would give this poem your
name as it’s own, but
futility gets old quickly

the children are hungry and
the ceiling cracked

the age of plague
nearly upon us
i will keep repeating this
until it becomes the truth

Saturday, August 18, 2012

christ the saviour

another day of no sun of no
money no drugs and
in the silences between breaths
there is only waiting

in the fields that move from
the edges of town to the collapsing
hills there are only weeds
                           and mud
the ragged coughs of feral dogs
who have learned to walk on
their hind legs

have learned to fuck for pleasure
and to torture for even more and
will you remember where you were when
you heard about cobain’s suicide?

will you let your children keep the
skulls they find along the
freeway’s edge?

it’s a brave idea to not believe in
killing, but it won’t
help you at all down in juarez
because your tears will have nowhere
to go when the ditches are all
filled with corpses

those in power will wash themselves
clean in the blood of the weak

this is the only real truth
that history has to offer

Friday, August 10, 2012

the bleeding horse despairs in the face of all that cannot be changed

this wall of heat until you can no
longer clearly remember the darkest days
                                                of february

the laughter of children and
the hum of air conditioners

trickle of sweat
between your lover’s breasts

and what hope can you have for the future
when your religion is based on blood
and violence, and why would you kiss the
feet of a savior who wears a halo of ashes?

why would kiss the
feet of anyone at all?

i am tired of the burning house

i am tired of the weeds
that devour the garden
once you move past the idea of
immortality, you begin to see clearly
once the last dollar has been spent, you
begin to see the attraction of despair
and do you understand why
bukowski’s death doesn’t matter?

do you understand he would have had
nothing but contempt for you?

and this is true of dali also, of course,
and of reagan, and once the villagers have
all been locked inside the church
the priests light the torches

they line up the bulldozers and they
explain that all true gods take sides

they turn politely away
while the women are raped

it’s a sad fucking world when the
only thing we can
think to beg for is forgiveness

gossamer cathedral

girl has a mother
but the mother is dead,
                  girl is dead,
carpet heavy with blood and,
the suffocating weight
of august sunlight

buzz of cicadas

poets with nothing better
to write about than
their own sad little lives