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Flash Fiction


Poetry by John Sweet



there is a girl

there is a girl
who has had her hand
caught in the machinery

who has had her arm
pulled into the blades then torn off
and she will live for two more weeks
and then she will die

and there is a house
down the street from mine
where the children write
on the sidewalk in pastel chalk
and then the next day it rains and
summer is over

my fingers crack and bleed

my need for language fades away
and the silence in this place becomes
a tangible thing

my wife and son sleep
in the next room

my childhood keeps an
uneasy distance

what i remember
is my father drunk

not on any particular occasion
but always
and at some point we became strangers
and then enemies

no reasons were asked for and
none given
and i can't seem to stop
whipping myself for these things
i can't change

the sky has no color and
nothing i hold casts
a shadow

nothing i love is permanent

and what the hell can i do
with these facts but drown?

words scratched quickly into the skin

do you remember

some unwilling spokesman
for a generation of
feral dogs
and all it got him
was dead

and gorky and rothko
and hemingway and
all i'm asking for
today is rain

all i want is for
the crows to blot out
the sun

these are words scratched
quickly into the skin
even as the baby begins
to move in the
next room

these are small prayers
from a man who will
always turn his back
on god

who among you has
the need
to hear them?

waiting for rain

late afternoon

a small breeze like maybe
the storm will be here soon

the streets empty
the children disappeared
or worse

a toy forgotten on a burnt lawn
and it is against all of
these things that i try to
hold you

and you ask what time it is
but we have chosen
a room without clocks in a house
without mirrors


exile isn't freedom

your ghosts will exist
no matter how much you try
to starve them

gorky knew this
and dali
and a man i spoke to only
four hours before he went home
and ended his life

there are always
husbands and wives and
sleeping babies

there is hopefully
the taste of fresh air through
an open window

do you see where
the difference lies between
love and rape?

not everyone can

thinking of two friends dead of cancer

this thing that
eats you like cancer but

three years of
unreturned phone calls
growing into five of
unopened letters
until you finally have
shed your past

can wake up to a grey sky
reflected in deep water
and know there is no one left
to hate but yourself and
even this is a gradual decay

the fingers
have to begin to bleed and
the words that fall from them
should all sound hollow

should all become
tiny graves
filled with dust

you have the
rest of your life to
bury all of your failures
beneath bitter lies

the human cathedral in darkness

cold yes
and afraid of jesus christ

afraid of the
patron saint of starving dogs in
this season of crucifixions
and that my past will rise up
to swallow me whole

and poems are only walls
that offer no safety

silence is not a weapon

and what the fuck do i do with
all of this worthless anger that still
clings to me
fourteen years later?

i stand in the kitchen in the
cold fluorescent glow of five a.m.
with the knives and the bread box and
the mindless efficient hum of the refrigerator
and i can't remember how i came
to be here

i don't know how to stop hurting
the people i love
or maybe i just don't want to

there is a man from michigan
who writes to tell me that i've lost my edge
and to him i will give the tiny body of
an ex-girlfriend's dead baby

i will peel the labels from
my wife's bottles of prozac and
place them over my eyes and none of
the starving will care

and what exactly
is my responsibility to
all of the battered women in the
western world?

how many lives am i expected to save
and who on the other side
of this thin sheet of paper has
the balls to give me an answer?

what matters is that
the mortgage is due

is that my son
has an ear infection and
that his lunch needs to be packed

and wars don't alter this
or the suicide bombings of
religious zealots

the final number will be
five thousand murdered in the
name of fear and
most of the bodies will
never be found and
the sun on this day will rise but will
fail to warm my hands

i will sit for eight hours in a
windowless room
and think about the sky

no one ever warned me how much
its weight would matter




About the Author


As for a bio, I live with my wife and our young son here in the wastelands of upstate new york. I've been writing for 19 years now, publishing in the small press for 13. I hate all schools of poetry, and try to keep my distance from any that seem to be trying to get too cozy with me. My work can be found at Burning Word, Locust Magazine, and Thunder Sandwich. A couple of my chapbooks are available through contacting the editors at Kitty Litter Press and Via Dolorosa Press. My full-length book human cathedrals should be out in December, sells for $9.50, precise details can be obtained from the editors at www.ravennapress.com. My email address is bleedinghorse99@aol.com, for anyone who wants to condemn me or damn me with faint praise.