why i dreamt of the west coast

a suicide maybe

bitter taste of
abandoned hope

says he hates her says
she hates him and then there’s the
kid forgotten at the
bottom of the bathtub

asshole in the front yard says
she owes him 200 bucks

smiles says he’ll
be happy to take it out in trade and
we keep moving closer to winter

you keep insisting that
things will get better but a man
can’t get elected in this country without
naming at least one
group of people he’d see wiped
off the face of the earth

a man can’t feel whole with the
future just waiting to eviscerate him

and not enough money to get the
brakes fixed and not enough
money to replace the bathroom window
and the same goddamn mudhoney
tape playing over and over

same rusted-out dodge with tinted
windows moving up and down
tracy street all afternoon

it’s not enough to run away if
all your past does is drag its
burned and broken dreams
right back to where you hide

no one teaches us to bleed, but we do

first dull grey light on a sunday
morning, late november, empty hands, and
who is it that wakes up contemplating suicide here,
and who is it that follows through?

who is that remembers
my father’s name?

bitter drunks and petty tyrants and so
i have stopped answering the phone

i no longer believe in picasso or in pollock,
in the hands of genius lying ragged and
bloody on the museum floor

i no longer believe in myself, and i
gave up on the rest of you a long time ago

i consider the clock
and then the calendar

all moments moving without pause
towards the future
and so the deaths of martyrs become eternal

thin rays of sunlight
pass through the blinds

through the uncertain snowfall and
who was the last person to see the missing child?

who will wear the
crown of rusted barbed-wire,
the cloak of tattered, tearstained flesh?


you cannot live
without being guilty

you cannot know peace
surviving on a diet of corpses, but
how many of us spend our lives trying?

how many times to do you have to die
before you can accept
even the simplest of such obvious truths?

start at one, i guess, and then
see where you go

the prophet, having learned the fine art of self-preservation

was it the year your father
died for the last time?

was it beauty
defined by pain?


i was through being in love
with you by this point

the dogs were hungry and the
children tired and
no one would admit to knowing the
body found floating in the river

no one would admit to
accepting christ as
their personal savior but the
fucker wouldn’t go away

was selling meth out of a 2-room
apartment over on arthur and the
cops just kept laughing

shot some 15-yr old kid in the
back of the head down in
the e-z mart parking lot but
what the hell was his name?

who stepped forward to
call it a crime?

if you tell me you remember
anything other than
frightened silence
i’ll tell you you’re a liar

travel piece for the sunday supplement

and you asleep in the back seat and
magdalena riding shotgun,
keeps turning up the radio, keeps reading
THE FIREBOMBING to me while we
drive north, past berkshire,
past tully

tiny faded houses on tiny faded two-lane highways,
weed-filled lawns and hungry dogs and
all of us high on august sunlight

you on my lap singing quietly with mick,
wild horses and then moonlight mile, and
magdalena talking endlessly about her husband
the martyr

keeps insisting there are things worth dying for
but i think i’m too old to believe in
that bullshit anymore

i accept fear and
i understand cowardice

i am not hugo ball and you are not debbie
harry and magdalena says she’s hungry

says the passing moments make her cry

tells me it’s not my fault we’re
lost but says she blames me anyway

theme for the eternal now

let our blood be a gift,
a song

let peace be
the obvious answer

not picasso, but chagall

not pollock, but tobey


it only ends up being a
lifetime of distance between us

it only ends up being a
mistake followed
by a missed opportunity

a phone call that
no one answers

a letter written but
never sent

and are you someone who
would apologize to
empty space?

are you a better god?

it’s not answers i’m after
here, but actions

it’s an admission of regret,
but then what?

time is the enemy

the future holds the end

you can only admit to
love or deny it

you can only accept
the answer

is this why we spend our
whole lives afraid?

Author’s Biography

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 A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications) and A DEAD MAN, EITHER WAY (2020 Kung Fu Treachery Press).