Poetry: Selections from John Tustin

The Ballad of Karl Marx the Eternal Houseguest 

Karl Marx slept on the sofas of the wealthy.
The eternal houseguest.
He entertained the professors and the idle rich
With his stories of the proletariat rising up,
Holding hands and singing Kumbaya.
It amused some and the rest pretended
That they were not the well-fed professors
Or the idle rich
But a put-upon fruit-picker
Too tired to lace his boots just before dawn
But lace his boots he did.
Karl Marx spent a lot of time trying to rally the men who shoed horses
And the men who toiled in factories to rise up and crush
The mothers and fathers of the men who let Karl Marx sleep on their sofas.
Karl Marx never shoed a horse.
Karl Marx never toiled in a factory.
“The very idea appalls me” he sneered to himself as he sipped tea
On Friedrich Engel’s terrace overlooking the Arc de Triomphe.
He looked out upon it and dreamed of another revolution
Until he felt a chill and went inside to warm by the fire the servants stoked
So dutifully.
Karl Marx died, possibly while sleeping on a rich man’s sofa,
Of the undefinable malady “The Wretchedness of Existence”
Which, in all honesty, sounds like a philosopher’s excuse
To not show up to work in the morning.
I bet Karl Marx died with a dirty bunghole
Because wiping his ass
Was one of the few things
He would have had to do for himself.

Dark Dark Blue 

“I wish the night was really black
Like everybody says it is, like its supposed to be,
And not this dark dark blue
That it really is,”
He said to himself,
Seeing everything around him in the not-dark-enough,
Even with the covers over his head
And even with the gradual easing of the beating
Of his greasy little heart.
“I wish the night was really black
And not this dark dark blue,”
He repeated as he snuggled deeper under the covers,
The flames he couldn’t see even in the dark dark blue
Licking closer and closer
And the only sounds in the room
The ticking of a clock that wasn’t there
And the schlump schlump schlump
That was the throbbing of his shriveled
Little plum
Of an almost imperceptibly beating heart.

The Shadow 

The shadow spreads, slowly,
like spilled coffee or blood,
grows darker as the sun recedes
until the world is darkness,
the movements in the world
all phantom-things for a while;
the moon nothing but a joke;
a joke that laughs at you,
laughs that you need her light;
laughs at how little light
she deigns to provide you
and then the shadow swallows
it all.

The Silence of Vines 

I sit under the silence
of vines
upon which nothing can grow.
I squat in the dirt
with the insects that wait
for the fruit that will never plump.
They are listless:
they do not climb the vines
or me.
I feel that we are alike –
waiting in the dirt
for the fruit
that will never
then fall.
The vines continue to spread
out in all directions
and I am caught.
I sit under
the silence of vines
and I wait.

The Smirking Sun and the Last Sleep

Always deeper pouches under my eyes –
Day to day bags more fully packed
To better prepare me for my next, at last
Forever home.
The crabgrass spreading like white smoke
Across the timeline of fading auburn hair
Luckily not thinned,
I look from the mirror to the sky –
And I see the sun up there, arrogant with fire of near perpetuity,
Pretending it is going to be up there forever
And smirking while it shines upon where I am now
And that little patch of land somewhere
Where I am soon enough destined
To lie beneath in my last sleep.

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