Tuesday 22 November 2022

Five Poems by John Tustin




I woke up this morning under a billiard table

Beside the ghost of Blaze Foley.

The sun was coming in through the dusty slats

And Blaze opened one eye, looking dazed and holy.

He sat up, hit his head on the underside of the table, cursed a bit

Then went to find a bottle that wasn’t empty.

My eyes followed him as he went from table to table, examining the beer bottles,

Weighing them, tilting them.

He found one with a little bit left and emptied it.

He turned to me as I got up and rubbed my eyes

Against the hell of the open blazing sun

And he said to me, “I do so much better

At night.”


Then he took a swing at me and missed.

He fell into my arms and told me he loved me,

Asking me to hear him sing later that day -

Just thirty feet from the billiard table where we had slept.


He walked out the door and I did, too.

He went home to his car and I went to eat breakfast

In a diner.

The silver tape on his boots smudged in black,

The beaten guitar upon his back.

He got into his back seat among the newspapers

And the clinking bottles.

I turned away and walked on,

Never to see him again.

I should have bought him breakfast.


I went back to the bar but he never showed up for his set.

That night I slept in my own bed and dreamed.

In my dream

We took turns dancing with Lucinda

With a bottle between us

And the white lines ready later

To shine in my headlights

And die behind me

In the dark

The way Blaze has died,

With hardly a ripple in time.


Lucinda wrote a song about him.

She’ll never write a song about me

But that’s alright.

I wish I could fly

And when I close my eyes

(And hear his ghost rumbling to life

In the slowly passing night)

Sometimes I do

On the wings of a drunken angel.





It rarely comes down all at once.

But one day you find yourself in a cold dark room

All alone at night, drunk,

Trying to hold in your rage, your rage,

Your sadness,

The tears you shed

That go to waste.


But baby, the rain must fall.


The rain is just water on a stone,

Day after day after day,

Imperceptible but insidious.


Remembering things you hardly noticed then

But now they tumble in your mind

Over and over, keeping you from sleep now:

Making breakfast for the kids (now far away), watching the woman

You love (now gone) as she picked out a bottle of wine

At the liquor store,

How the cat (now far away) would come running like a maniac

When you came home from work. As if

She missed you. As if you were worthy of being missed.


Now you’ve left them all behind,

With your furniture and your sobriety and your humour

And your semblance of self respect.

Look outside and see the sky as dark as it wants to be.

Listen to the rain and feel yourself shiver as the roof sounds like

Hammers and nails.


Beer 10 and the feelings fade.

Beer 15 and they intensify

But then you forget.


Put on your music.

Keep the lights out.

Pour another but don’t forget to set the alarm

Because you have 16 hours of work in about 8 hours.

Don’t burn your dinner because you are fantasizing

About the few good times in your life

Or the love that you thought was requited.

Why did you love her

And how could you not,

Of course?


Don’t think about all the betrayal and bad decisions,

Lack of options,

The rain is relentless and you can feel the cold seeping into you

From outside:

This is one of your signature nights.

Drunk as a bastard,

Sad as an orphan.


This is your night.

Turn up the music, make sure the shades keep out

The light,

Hoist your drink and make a toast:

To misery!

To madness!

To you!




I want somebody terribly.

I want somebody terrible.

I want somebody who does not want me.

I tell her she’s beautiful and she responds, “You’re so sweet”

While averting her gaze to her buzzing phone.

I want her body in spite of my body.

I want to smell the pillow where her nighttime hair has fallen.

I can’t help it. I can’t control it.

I want her attention even though

She flicks my attention with her index finger

Bouncing off of her thumb like a high diver,

Snapping through the air to stun me,

Obtrusive fly,

And sending me in a tailspin

Down down down to the carpet

Where she may step on me later,

My frozen wings and body crunching under her heel

But maybe not.

If she doesn’t step on me

It might be out of pity

The way a lone villager may have pitied The Monster

With his psycho-child brain and his rage and his rags.

If she does step on me

It will be an accident


She’ll have already certainly forgotten all about me already.





She writes a letter

To the conscripted warrior

Who was a farmer once

And wants to be an artist


Hoping the words

Reach him

While he is



An artist

At heart

And a farmer




The warrior







All of the birds who could fly

Shot upward from their resting places on the branches

At once

As the music of the sky began to swell,


Reaching a crescendo when the sky darkened in seconds

And the purple-black clouds turned loose the walls of rain

As if they had cords they pulled simultaneously


And I stood alone on a patch of grass instantly made mud

In the middle of it

Waiting for the clouds to relent

Waiting for the birds to return to their branches


Watching the hounds of hell ascend

Watching the winged bronze angels descend

With the music in my ears –

Helpless and drenched and stupefied, as is usual.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009.

fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.


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