what becomes


you are breathing on the

frozen ground with broken ribs you

are smiling and we are higher up

between venus and the crescent

moon in the last seconds before

first light we are falling we are

praying are laughing at the

idea of someone else’s pain


are laughing in the tall grass and

she is turning away with

broken hands a bleeding mouth and

i have known her i have held her

and he is at the wrong end of

the gun


he is no one or at least is no one

we know and she is laughing

as the trigger is pulled


he is laughing and they are

breathing with their lungs full

of iridescent poison full of

broken glass and this is the

moment when she speaks my



this is the taste of

her salt on my lips


we are alone here together and

moving deeper

into the heart of salvation


a luminous song


baby shot in the head outside a liquor store,

held up like a shield by its father and

no one can tell you when this desert began and

no one can tell you where it ends


the maps are all drawn in black on black


the politicians all laugh


it can go two different ways

you see

and the dogs believe in violence and the

whores believe in money and

both will always lead to power


and the bay is dead and then the father

but it’s a long ways away in

both space and time


a warm summer evening on

the opposite coast and i’m 26


i’ve given up on heroes and i’ve given

up on god and what it feels like is freedom


a small surrealist game to be played in a




with polished stones and

bleeding hands and naked lovers


a pile of skulls left at the water’s edge

and the mother says he never

really wanted a child and

the humor in pain is sometimes difficult to find


the joy found in terrorizing others is

what makes us human


seems like what you’d actually want to

be is something

more or something less


an answer


life wasted crawling towards water beneath the

sky blue sky and these

last days of winter and this taste of dirty frost


this 10 below zero this neverending wind and all of

the furniture from

the burned house spread out on the lawn


jesus in his unmarked grave

dreaming lightning bolts


understands the kingdom of god is a

fairy tale for suckers and fools


knows in his endlessly dying heart that a man who

wants for nothing is a man who can never be trusted




and nothing and

nothing and then ten

below zero at five thirty in the morning



am just trying to remember how to

breathe and how to be

am through believing in gods

in heroes

from room to room
with absolute clarity


need a gun or a window or the
doorway to a different kingdom

need to be a fist


a believer in those happy

days of open wounds


a priest waiting to

fuck or be fucked


i would give you hope if i could

just for the pleasure of

taking it away again


the bleeding horse sings one last song over the graves of 500,000,000 nameless victims


and if all you are is a ghost or

even if i find only one small place that

isn’t enemy territory


if the dogs have all eaten

their fill of corpses


call it a victory without

naming the war


let me rediscover hope


let me drown in the

ocean of your beauty


it’s enough that what we have will

still matter

even when nothing else does


by John Sweet

john sweet, b. 1968, winner of the 2014 Lummox Poetry Prize. opposed to the idea of plutocracies attempting to pass themselves off as democracies, and to all organized religion. not too impressed with television, either. collections include FAMINE, INSTRUCTIONS FOR DROWNING and the upcoming THE CENTURY OF DREAMING MONSTERS.

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