ash wilderness

and when you can no longer

win the war

you start raping the prisoners

start shooting them dead in their cells

or hanging them in the courtyards

letting the crows have their eyes

small victories

to give to your children and

what your breath smells of

is rancid meat

what your lover becomes

is a whore

the barrel of your gun pressed hard

between her legs

and the way that you smile

at her pain

the way that being human is

all you can ever do

these failures

that add up to your life

4 p.m

raped every day for seven months

and no one believes you

because maybe you're overweight or

maybe unattractive

maybe your pain is irrelevant

and i've been told that poetry is

a shitty substitute for the truth and

i've been told that the holocaust

never happened

i've seen pictures of kim phuc

smiling like she'd never been set on fire

and what about the man who

took the picture?

did he help put the flames out?

does he understand the mind of god?

or maybe what i want to talk about

is this man who buys crack

at the edge of some country road while

his grandchildren watch from

the kitchen window

while his son fucks a

fourteen year old girl in a motel room

fifty miles away

and none of this is your fault

i know

and none of it's mine

and so we sleep the sleep of the just

we make noises that are

mistaken for prayer

they save no one

but they sound so fucking good

crazy horse

you need to spill

a lot of fucking blood

before anything will grow

you need to have

the ability to rewrite history

whores turned into gods and

idiots into saints

and you need to forget about

the sand creek massacre

about the children butchered

in their sleep and then

the ones sold as slaves and

then the pregnant women kept in

cages for the safety of

the nation

and twenty years later

i still remember the look of contempt

on the face of this kid when i

told him i had no interest in

dying for my country

and i am still far from perfect

and i still have no use for god

but i think that there may be

some truth at the heart

of our myths

i think that my father's death

was no more or less

important than the death

of christ

i believe in the space that


between honesty and faith


you grow thin

eating the bones of ghosts

and no one loves you

no one speaks when you

walk into the room

am i close here?

being killed for your beliefs

doesn't make you christ

and being christ

never helped anyone

and listen

i am sitting in a cold

fluorescent glare when april calls

to tell me that a friend of hers

has died

i am thinking about rothko's suicide

and about the brakes on the car

the way the house is falling apart

at its own relentless pace

and i am thinking about

nikolay soltys

and the unflinching ease with which

he murdered his child and

his pregnant wife and

admit it

what you want to die is

watch his die slowly

and in excruciating pain

what you don't talk about is

the fact that it would solve nothing

there is always a point where

the truth no longer matters

there is always a dog

chained to a tree

in front of an empty house

a woman bound and gagged on

her lover's bedroom floor

his hands curled into fists

and his wife out of town and

the way that none of them

are happy

whatever reasons they have

for arriving at this point

the objects that will

need to be broken before

any of our pain can be

left in the past

john sweet, 35 and counting, angry, bitter, etc etc, hiding in a pissant town in upstate
new york, a believer in very little. a follower of the writings of j. pollock and of the
words of h. frayne. too much education, and still a shit job. recent publications include
the chapbook Enemy (, the full length collection Human
Cathedrals ( and the electronic chapbook Silence in the House of
Truths (

2003 Underground Voices