Poetry: Selections from John Tustin

Heart Rubbed Raw

Every carefully constructed plan
Drowned in the miasma of life
And a heart rubbed raw
By anger and sameness.
Alone, alone, alone.
Alone in these disconnected rooms
Of ashen sameness,
Of gray anonymity.
Love is a bullet
That always pierces my heart
And leaves me bloody
And jabbering.
The forest is black.
I dwell in the forest.
The soul is black.
The forest is my soul.
The sounds of the loveless morning
As insufferable as
The itchy heat of endless night.
Every room is full
Of only me.
The sun
Is a curse.
Heart rubbed raw,
Heart rubbed formless,
Heart honed into cold obsidian.
And still it aches.
Sometimes sharply, sometimes dully.
But the pain is ever present.
Someone is chiseling away
At all that I am.
Something eats away like acid.
Someone is taking my children from me.
I am almost done here.
I’m ready to go.
I am cowed
And I am finally a coward,
Crying into my useless and lazy hands.
Has become my favorite word

Losing Me

I have this recurring thought that I will die
And leave my children to the wolves
And what will they do without me here
And what will I do without them
Wherever I will go?
I can’t sleep at night, obsessed with the thought
That my children will not learn what I would have taught them,
Will not love the way I do – the way they do now.
I will not be forgotten, but a distant photograph
Yellowing at the bottom of the desk drawer.
Who would watch for cars when they cross?
Who would hold them when they suffer defeat?
Who would lift them when they fall?
Who would love me without condition or fail?
I’d miss making their beds and sitting next to them at breakfast tables.
Talking about books
And talking about cartoons
And talking about everything
So easily, so jauntily, looking into their eyes
And seeing myself and liking who I am because I like them.
I know this poem is no good, really, I know it.
Poorly written, scattered, no tempo,
Swirling snowflakes easily dismissed.
But I am so afraid of losing them, you see.
And of them someday losing me
And I had to let you know.


I am left in the street in the end –
My clothes in rags, the rain coming down
And your passenger door still swung open
As you peel away down the wet pavements.
I look at your tail light vaporizing in the distance.
I sit like a child spread-legged in the mud and the gravel,
Not wondering what happened
Or why
And even though I am the one
Who paid so much more than money
For your love,
I sit in the street, in the dark,
Feeling like nothing but a whore.

The Room is on Fire

The room is on fire
And the lightning strikes
Again and again
I stop masturbating long enough
To see the smoke fill the room
Through the murk of my tears.
The rain outside
Falls hard
Upon the roof
And the ground,
All self-important
Blustery noise.
As the room fills with flames and smoke,
The sky with rain and lightning,
My last thoughts
Are of the moments
You touched the place
Between my secrets and my fears
Where my desires rested
In streams of a soft easy
My last thoughts also
Of the first moment
You didn’t.

Throat Slit

I try to cry out
With my
Throat slit
And the blood
And it is
A noise 
It is
Just a
And yet I hear you
The thorns
The trees
The brambles
The smog
Of dead
City streets
In the
Night You hear
My noiseless
You rush
To my side
With exquisite
With immaculate
With binding
And eyes
That could
But do not 
And you dress
My wound 
And you recover
My voice 
And you restore
My blood 
Asking only
That I never
Cut myself

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