by John Sweet 

incantation for the refused

the rumor of your death or
the lie that is your life

and at the same time

sunlight and famine and
unpaid bills

the news of war
which is how we define both
the past and the future

a false king and a blind prophet
and the vast emptiness between them
where cities used to stand

have you forgotten
how to cast a shadow?

are you a failed poet just
waiting for the moment when you
can become a forgotten suicide?


anthems are for fools and guns for cowards

refusal is the key

no masters
no slaves

nothing more holy than yourself

let the whores who would
buy and sell you
devour their own kind or
let them starve

let them be the corpses we
wrap in flags to burn

everything is wrong and it’s all someone else’s fault

a pale white sun in a silver sky and
all of the emptiness where
everything that hides
hides in plain sight

all of your father’s despair and
all of his self-pity,
which is what he left you when he died

had a smile on his face when you
found the body, but that
might’ve just been the drugs

might’ve just been the simple joy
of floating up above the pain

no harm

i am tired of writing letters to
the teenage suicide i used to be

i am tired of the

the sense of loss

who is it that builds a
town in nothing but shades of grey?

who is it that builds the workers’ houses
in the poisoned shadows of factories?

consider democracy

consider nihilism

only one of them can
exist without the other

only a kingdom of fools would
believe in
their own infallibility

a milkwhite god

a manifest destiny

find the point where all of your
most deeply held lies converge
and place your headstone there

the alchemist, grasping for meaning

all days lost, all
minutes, all hours

tell her this and then
close the door,
or maybe say nothing

write it down instead,
black ink on a grey afternoon,
and then pull the trigger

wait for the
sound of laughter

what else have you
got but time?

or your death, which is invented at your birth

man with the gun says
there need to be changes,
but he’s just as dead the rest of us

he’s high on the fumes
of burning children

he’s trapped in the shadows
of his father’s fists

a slave and a whore,
but fuck it

no one comes to this town to
live up to their fullest potential

no one talks about better days
until there’s hope of them
ever arriving

you learn this early, and then
it just seems like something
you’ve always known

About the Author:

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include HEATHEN TONGUE (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications).