john sweet

in a room, blindly


Not lies, really,

but truths that can’t be proven.


The ghosts of Aztecs,

of Incas.


Parking lots.




Man rolls the dice to see which of

the children will starve,

and then the bomb goes off.


Seventeen dead, blood everywhere,

the pews of the church on fire.


The runoff from the mill

dumped into the river.


Close your eyes and picture it.


The first time we met and then,

two years later,

the first time we made love.


Oceans on every side of us,

wars to the south,

to the east,

and I told you you were beautiful.


Had no words beyond that,

only abstractions.


Only need.


Thirty seven years old and

suddenly no longer blind and,

in the mountains,

the killers were making new plans.


In town,

the streetlights were coming on.


It seemed almost possible

we would find our way home.


aesop’s blues


in the cold white light of

febuary mornings

in the shadows of obsolete monuments

where we no longer touch


this is the world defined by

indifference and rust


this is a handful of salt held out

to christ while he dies on the cross


a gift without meaning

or offered with nothing but malice


a man walking slowly across

the frozen river and

then gone


sends his love

which is worth nothing at all


by john sweet

john sweet, b 1968, still numbered among the living. A believer in writing as catharsis. Opposed to all organized religion and political parties. His latest collections include APPROXIMATE WILDERNESS (2016 Flutter Press) and the limited edition chapbooks HEATHEN TONGUE (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A BASTARD CHILD IN THE KINGDOM OF NIL (2018 Analog Submission Press). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.

John Sweet, Featured Author

church on fire


says i’m sick of

this shit


says tell me a story with a

happy ending for a change, and so i

paint her one of tanguy’s skies



i paint her one of

kahlo’s visions


i drive over to the north side

to find her father, but

no one’s seen him in

twenty years


no one gives a fuck about

the sixties, no one gives a shit about

lennon’s murder, about reagan’s

death, about anything other

than money or power


the past is empty nostalgia, the

future a fever dream of possibility

and i sleep on the couch

all week


i consider apologizing for

things i haven’t done


in the end i keep quiet

and the infection spreads


the sun barely clears the hills to the

south on the coldest days of the year and

the air is thick with the smell of

gasoline, of metal grinding against

metal, and she says

             slow down


says that was the exit but the

trick is to get further away, out to

where the hills no longer have names,

out to where the trees rise up forever

dead from lakes of black water,

and the trick is to forget the children,

and the trick is to drive out past

even this, out past memory and

pain, but the truth is that the

trick always fails


the truth is that sex always

ends up feeling better

than love


isn’t this what you’ve been

waiting to hear me say?



upstate landscape w/ minor premonition


or all of those days spent

waiting for something to happen


all of those wasted hours caught

beneath a pale white sun, beneath a colorless sky,

and it was always early afternoon and it

was always the middle of november


powerlines stretched from dying

house to dying house and

empty trees never quite casting shadows

across barren lawns


the highway and the back roads


endless empty spaces packed tight w/

the ghosts of the past


nothing subtracted from


again and again



: :


the car out of gas on

fire at the edge of the highway the

swimmer alone late autumn or

early his wife missing

or sleeping

the children not yet imagined

and this car this wasteland this

all barren fields and powerlines all

empty stretches of interstate

mountains in the distance

and a man you might have

been always swimming

towards them



imaginary poem while waiting for rain


but this is only the day of

angels and we are only cities on fire


we are in the car for eight hours straight,

up and down side streets,

scoring and then using and then looking to score again and

what we smell like, i’d guess, is

slow meaningless death


what we believe in are better gods

or no gods at all

and the radio is tuned in to neverending static on the

morning your husband walks out the door


still gone four days later,

fucking someone’s sister in a leaky trailer and

together they are only a monotonous story with a

predictable ending


a suicide that drags on for seven years


and her children sit and wait outside the

bedroom door, and this boy no one knows is found

alongside the interstate, raped and beaten and dead,

eyes gouged out, coat hanger wrapped

tight around his throat


fourth of july in this

age of casual oblivion


religion forced down your throat and

deep up into your ass and whoever tells you that

voting will bring about change is a liar


power will always be power and poverty a crime and

we have been walking lost through this forest

for days now or for a month or maybe for

half our wasted lives


i have told you i love you and i have

told you i hate you and

neither one is anywhere near the truth


i have tasted your sweat and i have

drunk your blood and i have

offered you mine and

we are dying stars in broad daylight


we are dirty needles on piss-stained floors


the truth sounds better as a metaphor and then

better still as a lie and the windows here

are all broken, the walls filled with

dead and dying bees


end of july


walk out the door and drive through

100 miles of nothing and then

100 more and then start to see a pattern


believe only in what you can hold


fall asleep at the highway’s edge beneath

a relentless sun and

what the fuck were you thinking,

growing up, starting a family?


what the fuck were you

thinking, giving yourself away?


bought a house with no roof, no walls,

water in the basement


pulled the plug on your father


spoke quietly about your grandmother’s suicide

in a roomful of strangers and none of them

listened and why would they?


this is the 21st century


age of emotional famine


age of indifference


wake up in the middle of frozen lake in

early february with a head full of

broken glass and think about summer


try to remember how you

ended up here


open your eyes for once in your life


by John Sweet


john sweet, b. 1968.opposed to organized religion and to political parties.  ideologies in general, altho he DOES have a soft spot for the concepts of surrealism and post-punk.  30 years spent wrestling w/ the idea of writing as catharsis.  most recent collections are THE CENTURY OF DREAMING MONSTERS (2014 Lummox Press) and A NATION OF ASSHOLES W/ GUNS 2015 Scars Publications, e-chap).

John Sweet: Featured Author

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…

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First Portrait of Maria, in the Style of Dali

You in this sepia-toned photograph,
with your arms wide open in greeting,
with your hands held up in surrender.

Edge of highway, corner of house,
hint of something better. A body of water,
maybe, or the back of someone else’s

A gun pulled from inside the
killer’s heart, and he says Mr. Lennon,
then smiles, then pulls the trigger.


I’ve gotten ahead of myself here.

I’m ten years old and in a boat with
my father and two of his friends, and the
engine has died. The tide is going out,
and the only sound is the pull of the

The only heat is the

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a small dog, bleeding

it happens this way sometimes,
where the children die from the poison that
seeps up from underground

you vote for one person or the other,
and the children die, and it’s not war but
business, and both words are actually just
different ways of saying profit


new computers will be given to
the schools as gifts

the sharpened teeth of priests will snap
the bones of young boys in two

what you need to believe in are
rabid dogs
speaking w/ the voices of humans

what we do is use the word political
to describe what we don’t want to
talk about and then, of course,

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the theory of sunlight on chrome

your name called out at
the exact moment
a woman’s body washes ashore
three thousand miles away
or a man pulling poems
from the bones of old lovers

obvious things

my wife and her fears

my lack of faith

my lack of money

the possibilities of
highways and of walls

the idea of starvation

of sunlight
through rainsoaked trees

and what if
the unborn child becomes
a weapon?

what if the ocean is bottomless?

don’t believe for a second
that any of this poetry

don’t think that
killing the killers is
the same thing as justice

and maybe
it doesn’t have to be

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