Literary Yard

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‘The Crow’ and other poems by John Tustin

By: John Tustin


Some people have the bluebird in their heart,
Some have the raven.
Some the gentle sparrow,
Some the brutal hawk.
There is the crow in my heart
And he eats my humanity
And replaces it with sorrow
In the anonymous dark.


I need something to quell the demons,
or let them loose.
They sit idle,
poised always to get out.
Let loose on the world
to set it on fire.
They whisper in my ear,
distracting me from my duties,
my necessities
and my pleasure.
Mercenaries whose only mission
is to pull me down,
pull me in.
Pull me apart.

I dreamed of that idyllic house
of childish reverie
with the six kids in the yard,
the smiling wife in the front door.
But there is no such thing.
Just screaming
and grey
and miscalculation.
Solitary echo footsteps
on sterile staircases
going up,
going down.
Leading nowhere.
I dreamed too long.

Noise, noise in my head,
blood squishing beneath my feet,
death rattle between my ears.
My soul orphaned from
the rest of me.
These malicious demons
slice out,
trample my good.
Leave me starving, freezing,
smoke-filled in the night desert.
Quiet, damn you,
get out
of my head!
I need pills
or booze
or vice.
I need to abandon
what I love
and run from
what I need.
I need to shit
or get off the pot.
Answer the demons
with a definitive.
Crush them beneath
the weight of breathing benevolence
or be impaled on the wicked horn of malevolence.

Dancing drunkenly,
toward the abyss.
To hang there by a thread,
holding the cross,
holding my skin,
holding the words
with rain stinging like acid
in my eyes.
My children cannot save me.
My parents cannot save me.
Jesus cannot save me.
Well-meaning strangers cannot save me.
I cannot save me.
The demons cannot leave me.
Their wings unfold inside of me.
The devil himself
on my hip,
riding me sideways,
creasing my flanks
with my own new blood
from his riding crop.

The devil is a bully.
The demons do his work.
The blood will pour
down the mountain like lava
in a flood that will kill
all that is surrounds.
The devil will stand
in the frame with crooked arms,
admiring his handiwork.
Nearly satisfied.



Cab Calloway drinking Jittersauce 80 years ago
And I listen to him while I scratch my head –
It makes me look down at the dandruff falling smalling
Like snow
Upon the tiny hamlet of my lap
In this snowglobe that is my lifeless life.

I’m thinking about you
While I think about her
And I’m looking at this one fingernail
That needs to be cut
And I wonder about the amount of time I’ve wasted
Cutting my nails or biting them
And the amount of time I’ve wasted
Thinking about you
And especially about her.

I’m glad I just heard about Jittersauce
Because the beer and the wine and the whiskey have been bad enough,
Not to mention the vodka.

I just listened to Jonah Joined the Cab and rarely have a wished something
As much as I wished I was some dude named Jonah
Blowing a trumpet for Cab Calloway
Before any of us was born

Or reborn,
Depending on your beliefs
Or mine.


The night is wrapping up
It’s toward midnight
I put in my hours
Prepared my computer for tomorrow’s work
My eyes are burning with lost sleep
Decayed melting dreams
Tomorrow’s hell

Took Johnny to the toilet
Put Sara in her bed
Tried to shit but couldn’t
Watched TV and ate ice cream
When she came in
Looking for evidence of wrongdoing
And not finding any

She went back to bed
To dream scurrilous dreams
Of mismatched facts
And whispered innuendos
And I’ve wasted enough moonlight
I have to work tomorrow
Flying with a broken wing
Sleeping with a pain in my gut
A weight in my chest
A cinder in my eye
An itch on my back
I just can’t reach
And I still can’t shit
It feels like a duffel bag stuffed
In my ass
Time for sleep
To wake up too soon
To the inevitable sorrow
Of July twenty second
Two thousand and nine



Your eyes have nothing behind them
And I like a woman with something behind her eyes
Even if her eyes are full of tears
Or she is frightened of a man’s eyes looking into hers.

Your touch has no affection
And I like a woman whose touch is sex and love
Even if her hands tremble with the memories
Of the bad men who tried to hurt her when touching her.

Your lips have no sensitivity to them
And I like a woman who is wilted by my softness,
Who is aroused by my savagery
And understands why both this soft and this savage man is me.

Your eyes are just as empty as your sister’s
And I was amazed I was so fooled
But it’s not so difficult to confuse a man
Who wanders the desert for so many years

Looking into so many eyes with nothing behind them
And just wondering if somewhere there is more –
Even eyes full of tears on the face of a woman
Frightened of a man who is just trying to look into them

But she is willing to let him look.

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