Guernica detail
a sound like picasso's scream

there is
something here
you would not call
a war

a sound like
picasso's scream
maybe

like the moment
the blade removes
the hand
and the baby is only
nine months old

and the mother is next
her left leg severed
at the knee
and we are all so
undeniably human

we are
performing these
unthinkable acts of
brutality or we are
witnessing them
and the baby won't
stop crying

the days will not
stop unfolding

there is no end to
the ways a life
can be destroyed


exiled, late august, the sun crying like a child

the wind picking up
until the day begins to feel
like autumn

a friend's child sick
and a pregnant woman stabbed to death
by her husband on the edge
of the pacific

the husband disappeared

these are old stories painted
in bright new shades of grey and
the mortgage will still be due
whether or not you shed any tears

men will speak fondly of lethal injections
and men will speak fondly of jesus christ and
i will close my eyes
in the sunfilled second story room

i have no suggestions
of my own

i have been watching
one atrocity lead to the next
my entire life
and occasionally i have wept

more frequently
i have turned my face away to hide a smile
and i can accept the fact that i
will never cure cancer

i can live in this town
another forty years
without ever really considering it
to be my home

the trick is to
always be found standing on
the other side of any
closing door


poet embraces the absence of god

and how long after
the house burns down
is the child's body found in the
remains of a closet?

eventually
the answer doesn't matter
and the question becomes
pointless

the mother is discovered in the garage
and thirty-nine stab wounds
are counted

the father is arrested
somewhere in
the slow passage of days

is eventually forgotten in
the wake of newer atrocities
and then my son
speaks his first words

i stand in the kitchen doorway
and worry that
the furnace won't last another winter

i drive home after eight hours spent
sitting in
a windowless room

a man at a four-way stop
raises his hand to gesture me through
and i raise my own in thanks
and i will never grow tired
of not speaking

will never grow tired of
sitting at the foot of the bed and
watching april sleep

and none of this
saves the burning boy and
flowers don't grow from the spaces
between his bones
but i will not feel guilty for
turning my face to the sun and
smiling

i will not
spend every waking hour
digging tiny graves
on the outskirts of
fancy towns

there are differences between
lies
and promises made only
to be broken

© 2001 John Sweet



John Sweet

Recent chapbooks include Seasons of Rust (Via Dolorosa Press) and Faith in Nothing (Kitty Litter Press).  i live in upstate new york with my wife and our son, and i really can't think of anything to say about the recent tragedy that hasn't already been said.  i'm still in shock.