Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Defeated’ and other poems by John Tustin

By: John Tustin


A few days after the day
When it all began for us
You spoke to me,
Hushed as if under house arrest
And I could hear your voice
Almost inaudible
In my ear
But clearly
And definitively alive
On the telephone.

You seemed almost broken.
I thought I could repair you.
I saw not your eyes,
I kissed not your mouth.
I thought about all of it,
Knowing it was all I believed
It would be.
I soon learned it was.

I saw the moat, the alligators snapping.
All of it.
Still I thought.
I was in the right but
You were less a damsel in distress
Than a prisoner of her own duties
And calculations.

These years later
I wonder about the time wasted –
Me chasing you,
You pretending a moment to be caught
By me;

Some fool as defeated
As you.

A few days before the day
That becomes tomorrow
And you still speak to me
In smoke signals
From a distant village,
Not asking me to help you
But only to understand.

Understand –
Your blindfold,
Your hands tied behind,
Your extraneous cartoon cigarette,

Your masochist desire
For the bullet.

I understand
But will never accept.

You know that.
Here you are.
But not
With a cigarette falling from an otherwise
Perfect mouth
With the vibration of the bullets
Sent to you by marksmen
Thirsty for your blood.

You are defeated
But I am dead.

It is not nearly
The same.

If you don’t believe me
Just check your own pulse

As I am lowered
In my plain brown




Alone in this room
Crowded with shadows and ghosts
Wrinkled sheets and dust
With a book
Red beans and rice
A bottle of water
Pajama bottoms
Frayed at the cuffs

A single light bulb
Burning away like failure
Beside the bed
Waiting to be doused

In a night
Where my children are missing

So am I



I lie in the rubble here
And you,
In the rubble
On the other side of
Our city, destroyed.

We are dead.

Nothing remains of us
But some streaks of blood upon
The shattered and crumbling

The volcano erupted,
The earth opened up,
Zeus threw down some lightning bolts
Just for shits and giggles.
The seas rose and overwhelmed at the edges.
The rain fell as if from sieves of open wounds.

There is where the temple stood
Where we married
And the town square now
Over there was once the doorway
Where we kissed in front of the falling rain.
And over there once stood the now tumbled wall
Where I pushed your body against
And my mouth to yours
For the first time.

Zeus laughs, the thunder bolts crackle,
The ground is a series of busted mouths heaving,
The lava trickling in or bubbling out
Like spittle.
Always rain.

The sky above where our city stood
Oozes with the entrails of fetid grotesque
God-inspired Death.
Whole death. Forever death.
Now and forever death.
The clouds writhe in pain,
Dripping blood as black
As what resides inside those opening
Cracks in the ripped earth
That eat the trees and sidewalks
Of what was our city.

Our bodies
And we
Never to be recovered.

I thought I felt a hand moving beneath the rubble
Of the temple altar where I sacrificed myself to you
But it was merely
The continual turning
Of the earth.

Zeus grows bored
And turns his attention elsewhere.

The rain, like blood,
Flows down.



Various books are open:
Bukowski, Collins, Neruda,
As well as
Santana – Se A Cabo playing
As the thunder bangs close by
And the light lessens by the minute
While I am thinking about you:
How you made the hair on my neck stand up
With your fingers and your kisses;
How the electricity of you would enter me
Just by my watching you emerge from my bathroom
Drying your endless black hair and smiling
Your smile into the heart of me
Like a blade of light.

Now it is The Band merging into Ian Hunter
And then I read a page or two
From another opened book.
I close my eyes in the delirium
And feel you sitting on my lap,
Calling me Honey
And then the taste of that first kiss…

I’ll write something tonight.
It’s all I have now.



Where are all the good men?

Conscripted into armies by bad men and worse men.
Bayoneted, their bodies flailing scarecrows bent in the wind,
Dangling off of the barbed wire
In the misnamed No-Man’s Land.

Broken by shrews and harpies
Whose words are knives;
Whose voices are the snarling of wolves.

Dashed on the rocks
While distracted by the waving mermaid’s

Taken over the knees of fathers,
Slapped in the face by mothers
And told to not be who they are.

Snapped in two by the truth
Of history.

Rejected by their children after a twelve hour workday
As they cling to their mommy, wondering when this stranger
With a three day growth of beard will leave them be.

Snoozing at the switch.
Tossed aside because the exhaustion
Overcame them.

Balding or graying,
Worried but unsoothed.

Women can cry
And so can clowns in velvet
But good men must put on
A brave face
As they are passed over for a seat on the lifeboat.

Good men drown without their tears mingling with the sea.

All the good men are dead,
Or else dying
On a battlefield
Seen only at night
At the exact time

The moon seems to
The hardest,

The bitch.

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