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the poem is a mouthful of ashes

the poem
is the god's eye

the dream is where
the shadow of one white house
spills across the wall
of another

or october
a slowly unclenching fist

the trees on fire
the sunlight offering
one last fading glimpse
of warmth

and even here
i find myself numbered among
the silently screaming

do you understand
what i need to say?

the poem is the
deepest part of the ocean
and we are falling from
the edge of the sky

and if not this
then what?

the poem is
a mouthful of ashes
the poet a frightened
gutshot animal

it reaches that point

after the fire, all of the missing found

early morning beneath
magritte's sky
and cold smoke still rising
from the ruins of the
burning house

there is a point where
the dead have to stop being

where the streets all
come to an end and the starving
keep walking into the
wilderness beyond

there is a
fragile skin of ashes
blanketing everything i own

my son
in another room
calling out my name and
then falling back asleep

and if his tiny voice
is the only beautiful thing i
will be given today then
i take it gladly

i am not so big a fool that
i would pass up
simple joy

all of the raped and battered women and all of their children

and five years
after his death i am
still writing about my father
in the present tense

am still trying to find
the wall that
separates love and hate
and i think that maybe
there is none

i have seen you naked and
on your knees
in a pale blue room with
a stranger's hand at
your throat

i have tasted your tears

am sorry for your pain
but will not be the one to
ease it

and how many times have i
said this
and to how many people?

all of the
raped and battered women and
all of their children and
i have closed every one of
those doors behind me

have slept in my narrow bed
while the flames reached
for the curtains

have woken up with
the taste of gasoline
filling my mouth
and the phone ringing

my mother's voice saying
"your father is dead"

the sky
nowhere to be seen

the history of inevitability:  an elegy

if i give you a cross
you want another

if i give you fifteen
you declare the ground they're
planted in

you call the children martyrs
which is only
another way of saying dead

the years all end
just as bitterly as they begin

what gets us through them
isn't faith but fear

my father taught me this
and then all of the lovers i ever had
and i remember each day thick
with the taste of oil
and road salt

i remember dreaming of august then
waking up to
bare trees and the news of
another teenage daughter lost

and what does it matter how young i am
if all i have to offer are
words written on bare flesh?

i have survived the loss of
things i can no longer name but that
at some point
were more vital than blood

i have walked lost down the
streets of a hundred different towns
filled with the knowledge that
saviors are only dogs still waiting
for their first taste of flesh

with an addiction to rage
pounding through my veins

my life spent avoiding god
only to end up
discovering religion

this poem is already written

says god
is on the highway

says god is
in her empty hand

two hours outside
of buffalo
and the rain begins
to freeze

she's stopped

she's stopped burying
her dead

this is how far
we've come

two hundred miles
and still the same
indifferent sky

almost there
and she says she
wants to go back

says she misses
whiskey hill road

shows me her wrists
and this poem is
already written there
in faded black ink

obvious magic
but i have to smile

(c) John Sweet 2002
John Sweet, at 33, lives in continuing obscurity
with his wife and son in a 60 year-old house in
a dying factory town in upstate new york.  his
hope is to make every poem the absolute truth
for the period of time in which it is written.  upcoming
chapbooks in 2002 include Approaching Lost from Via
Dolorosa Press and Human Cathedrals from
Ravenna Press.