Poetry: Selections from John Tustin

Death-Birds Glide

Death-birds glide
Above me, their
Shadows darkening
My form where I lie
Waiting for them
To stop circling
And make me
Their meal.
The blackness
Of their eyes,
The blankness
Of their beaks,
They circle and
They wait.
I am ready to
Give in but they
Cannot sense it
Is silenced. The
Ability to move
Forward is quickly
Death-birds glide,
Casting their winged
Shadows upon this
Soul half alive yet
Desiccated with the
Aloneness of this
Very night, the moon
Laughing that laugh
Of the conqueror
Over the conquered.
They descend and I,
So ready to end this,
Tremble and wait
Like I have waited
For these slowly
Descending wings
Since I learned
I know just as much
As I am.

Flags of Old Victories

I don’t go out anymore.
I don’t go out on dates
or meet friends for dinner.
At night I close my eyes
and think about old victories –
tattered flags fluttering in a burnt-up
I think about sex
the way an armless man
thinks about putting on a pair of gloves
and dream at night
that my arms have been regenerated,
that the women come to me,
give me what I want and then go away.
I lie in bed tonight
and hope the rain will come.
The only two feral cats in the neighborhood
fight it out for territorial rights
right beneath my windows
and the flags of old victories
are set at half-mast.
The rain won’t come.

I’m So Small

I’m so small I can’t find myself.
I’m so blind
that the darkness doesn’t even seem to matter.
I’m so torn
that I laugh at the notion of a needle and thread.
I’m so deaf
to every sound except for the tick tock tick tocking.
I’m so small
I get lost between the words on the page.
I’m so blind
that I live in envelopes that hold the love letters
I have long lost.
I’m so torn
that I don’t bother to gather up my fallen guts.
I’m so deaf
that I can’t hear you
telling me that everything I’ve written can’t be true.
There is a pit
in the pit of my stomach
and it is split open now
and what grows from it is monstrous.
It’s monstrous
and yet it’s so small that I can’t see it.
It grows outward
and fixes itself like glue
all around in the dark of the dark.
It sticks the pages together.
It glistens like condensation on all the windows,
then paints them shut.
It’s turning the covers now
so that means it’s time for me to sleep.
I’m so small I can’t find myself,
not even when I’m dreaming.

My Love is a Secret

My love is a secret.
Don’t tell my mother,
don’t tell my brother.
Keep your friends in the dark.
Not the same dark we grope in,
of course –
a different dark.
And never tell my other lover.
He just wouldn’t understand.
He’s not dumb,
like you.
Wonderful like you.
like you
like you.
I love you,
but shhhh!
It’s our dirty little secret.Hold my hand
under the kitchen table,
out of sight.
Hee hee hee.
Kiss me at the closet door.
Keep your zipper open
and your mouth shut.
That’s a good, obedient boy.
I love you
but don’t tell anyone.
presses her finger
to her
hee hee.

Sick for the Second Night in a Row

Sick for the second night in a row,
not throwing up but wanting to,
also not wanting to.
Sick for a different reason than last night,
this illness unknown
and since I’ve very likely passed
more than halfway through life
I no longer shrug off sickness,
assuming immortality.
I’m aware that any pain or illness could be It –
The Big One, The Last Gasp –
and that brings the fear to mingle with the hurt.
I lie in bed with the aching head and belly,
trying to sleep in the waning sunlight
and when I close my eyes
I conjure this woman
to soothe my nausea
and slake my endless sexual thirst,
the pang that never subsides.
I fall to sleep with my lips wrapped
around one smallish perfect breast,
my hand cupping the other one
and she’s whispering in my ear.
The words are unimportant,
it’s the whisper of her voice,
the kind whooshes of air, cool and sweet
that flow into my skull,
matching the cadence of my suckling,
whirling around inside me like leaves in autumn.
I fall asleep with my head in her lap.
When I wake up, feeling better,
no longer worrying about dying,
I’ll think about her some more
and she’ll say teasing sexy things,
she’ll spread open on the bed,
I’ll unroll her, get a little bit rough,
not too much but enough,
she’ll like it
and I’ll pretend for a moment as I’m snarling
that I’m immortal,
just like I did half a life ago.

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


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