Poetry: Selections from John Tustin

Drunk in Bed

Drunk in bed just after a half-hearted shower.
Reading Li Shangyin, Du Fu, Chen Tao.
It’s finally a cool night.
I keep coughing and I’m dizzy.
How many more nights? I ask.
I sit naked and read, the last bottle almost empty
And sitting still cold by my side.
How many more nights? I ask again.
The bottoms of my feet are dirty
But there’s no one in my bed to complain
Tonight -
Another night in these less and less nights.
How many more nights? I ask a third time
And then fall asleep drunk beside the painted words
Of Li Shangyin, Du Fu, Chen Tao,

Eating Campbell’s Condensed Potato Soup

Eating Campbell’s Condensed Potato Soup and crumbling in some generic saltines,
Wearing my only pajama bottoms that are frayed at the bottom almost up to the knee
And no longer wondering why you don’t love me anymore.
I get it now. Funny how I understand so much now that it doesn’t matter.
I’ve wanted to die all at once but little by little it is. Fucking fate.
I see the little pieces of me drifting away into the nothingness when I sleep at night.
I have this heat rash in my armpits and my stomach always hurts,
Never mind the Gold Bond Powder or the generic Zantac.
One day nothing will itch or hurt and I am ambivalent about that. However,
There’s a young lady with pale green eyes and sometimes I dream she wants me
When I’m not having the usual bad dreams and I think about her wanting me right now
As I spoon the soup down my gullet and pretend I feel full and she is real,
Sliding my rotten body into the fresh sheets, hopefully to pretend tonight
A little bit more,
A little bit more.

Her and Your Perspiration 
I had a dream last night
And in my dream I was in my bedroom
With this stunningly beautiful Brazilian woman,
Chubby and a little younger and perfect.
I don’t know who she was or why she was here
But I felt myself wanting her.
I was standing beside the bed
While she was under the covers, her body and
Black black curls wet with the perspiration of a fever.
I got into bed with her,
Feeling the heat emanating from her delightful but ailing body.
She had her back to me, sleeping or attempting to
And I lifted the heavy hair from the back of her neck
About to kiss her there
When the scent of her perspiration hit me:
She smelled like you.
I woke up
Not knowing what I would have done next
And I still don’t.

I am the Coyote  
I am the coyote
Searching for the flesh in the dark
In among the vegetation and the garbage cans
In this 2021 USA.
Here I am, looking,
Not for flesh as much as
Just wishing for you.
I am the coyote
Gallivanting in the moonlight
With the silhouette of his other
In the moonlight
While the moon is full
And I am wishing you were there
To share the little flesh there is
To tear
In this moonlight tonight
As I howl lowly
Just before the moonlight
To the sun
That should say hello to us
But does not
And I tear my bloody teeth
Into almost nothing.


He and I stand sometimes side by side and sometimes back to back and we work,
Endlessly filling slot after slot,
Often crossing arms and getting in the way of the other.
While we work I am thinking about how you and I never met in person
Yet for some reason I keep thinking about kissing you
Or lying in bed with you, your leg around my thigh as we talk about poetry
Of the Tang Dynasty
And then I start thinking about how I drank a big bottle of Merlot two nights ago and
Fell asleep only to wake up and puke purple into the toilet
And all over the floor and walls of the bathroom –
My coworker talking and talking all the while
About some television show
Of which I have no knowledge and even less interest
And I just keep playing this game of solitaire in my head,
Turning over the card that debates what I plan on eating for dinner tonight
And placing it over the card that holds the memory
Of that time when I was eleven years old and I pretended to be sick
So I didn’t have to go to Confirmation class because I couldn’t memorize The Apostle’s Creed
But my mother made me go anyway
And I got a failing grade.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last dozen years. For a complete list of his publication credits click here