Poetry: Selections from John Tustin

The Cork Beside the Bottle

Right now
She is celebrating
The New Year
In a room full of family
To whom she is
A stranger.
She has
The cork from
The wine bottle
And she is
Herself glass
Upon glass
Upon glass
And with every
I appear
Before her
More and more
Sitting in
The chair
Across from
With her
Of the bottle
I kiss her
And a tear
To the table.
The cork lies
Beside the
And the drained
Now empty
Of wine,
Of potential,


A world existed before words.
There was other communication
And it is communication our dinosaur brains
Acknowledge without our input
Or acquiescence
In the moment we live beyond conscious thought.
Maybe that world will return,
If only from person to person,
One of us at a time,
Not all at once
But a gradual degradation
Until all one can do
Is point as our mouths
Eek and ook.
I think about that
As I grow older by a day,
Less knowing by a day, narrower
And more and more
Running out of
How wonderful would it be
To find the well has gone dry
Just at the moment you knew
No longer could you thirst?

Gypsy Specter

I have a dream that I am in bed
And far away there is a kitchen light buzzing,
Harsh and fluorescent.
I want to get up and turn it off but I can’t move.
Outside, in the hallway, intruders await.
I feel their presence.
I want to check to make sure the door is locked
But I can’t move.
There is a ghoul on my bed,
Sitting at the corner.
She looks off into nothing,
This Gypsy specter.
I yell for her to look at me
But my voice only exists in my mind.
She’s dressed in white peasant clothing.
I can’t see her face.
The light is buzzing.
The ghoul sits still.
I can’t move or respond to her passivity.
I wake up alone in nothing but darkness
And when I am certain it was just a bad dream
I pretend I am nestled in the arms of an angel,
Her wings enfolding me like hands clasped in prayer.
I fall back to sleep and don’t remember any more dreams.

I Own My Darkness

I own my darkness.
I revel in my joylessness
And in that I find my joy
Like the drug addict who is sick
And plunges the needle to not feel his sickness for a few hours.
I am my darkness
And I do not shun the light –
The light shuns me in fear
Because I am such darkness.
I open my window and the sun disappears into sudden rain
Or it shines blistering into my eyes until I relent,
Until I retreat – I have no choice.
I have my nights alone
And it is there that I find my type of meditation:
The books open and I read a page of one, a page of another
And then I close my eyes and listen to the music.
Closing my eyes, lying still –
The sweat no longer trickles, the headache gives way to the
Words that come to me, just like that.
The words are a darkness that bring warmth to my blood.
These words also bring to life my darkness that would otherwise rot
And then spread the rot to the rest of me.
These words raise the dead inside of me;
My ghosts inhabit this room and I greet them casually.
They arrive most nights to remind me why I am me.
The room is calm and cool and their breath forms in the air when they speak –
One in the doorway, one leaned up against my dresser,
Several dozen sitting on the bed with me.
They taunt me and they comfort me
With their dread and with their reliability.
I am my darkness.
I ask you to not be afraid when I hide from you
As I embrace myself instead,
My eyes as cold and blue as ice fighting the sun to live.
My darkness is me and inside this darkness
Is a tiny light out of sight, protected by my folded wings
That can never, must never
And no, I cannot show you
But if you put your ear close enough to my breathing
You will know that light is there inside me
With its tiny constant crackle and flicker.
I own my darkness.
My darkness owns me.
Don’t worry about it.
I don’t worry about it anymore,
My black wings folded over
A tiddly but brave sphere of natural light
Whose crackle and flicker
Reverberate in the shadows
Of the vast tomb that is my darkness,
That is in the pulse and the fibers of me.

The Roses are Burning

The roses are burning in gardens of hell.
The air stinks of melted plastic.
The sky is a mottled choking blue.

The roses are drowning in the piss
Of the millions.
The roots seeped with rot.
The dirt is a powdery gray.

The roses are in flames.
Acrid putrid gorgeous flames.
And nothing will ever grow
In the ashes that remain.

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