Sunday 14 May 2023

Five Poems by John Tustin




There was a time

that I would have a crush on a girl

and wouldn’t have the nerve

to even speak to her


but I would find out where she lived

and walk past her house,

feeling the shiver of proximity as I went by

even though I had no idea

if she was even home.


I would do that a few times,

then move on to the next crush –

never speaking

but walking the same sidewalk she walked

when she was on her way home


and, decades later,

I can’t even rally myself

to do that


and have gotten no better with my words.




We were over in a minute,

even quicker than we started,

making out in that parking lot

in the dark, you mashed up

against your driver’s side door

and me on you like a ghoul,

grinding into you,

acting starved.


It was a kind of petering out –

a sputtering so whispered

that we hardly noticed

and later, after a while,

when we spoke after a year,

I asked you why you ended it

and you responded that

you were going to ask me the same.


It was so odd,

the abruptness of it

and how neither of us ended it,

we just stopped contacting each other

and it’s odd how each time it ends for me

in this succession of sex and nervousness

and stilted increasing mediocrity,

I am left with a little less

than I had before


and you, Tracy,

you took more of me than usual

as you found your way to the exit,

neither of us even saying so long.




I thought I was hanging

from the silver cross that hung around her neck

but I was mistaken.

Everything was wrong.

I had given her that cross and chain

and she wore it a few times

and then stopped wearing it.

I saw myself there,

dangling above the breasts

that hid in her man-tailored shirt

but I was mistaken.

Everything was wrong.


I kissed her

and sometimes she kissed back

with lips at once aroused and repulsed.

I never could figure it out.

We were just kids,

still in high school

and not knowing much of anything.

I would call her on the phone

and she would pretend she wasn’t home.

I saw myself trapped in the darkness

of her bedroom drawer –

the drawer where she quickly hid and then forgot

the silver cross I had given her.

Everything was wrong.


The last night I spent with her,

she snuck me into her room

before her mother got home.

Her mother caught me hiding in a closet

at four in the morning.

Her brother told on us.

She bribed her brother not to tell

by promising him a silver cross and chain

he saw her wearing once and had since admired.

She forgot to give it to him so he told on us.

She also forgot

that I was the one who gave it to her.

It was just some disinteresting bauble to her;

something she had completely put out of her mind.

I thought I saw myself hanging from it

the few times she wore it

but I was mistaken.

Everything was wrong.


By five in the morning

I was on my way to the subway station,

on my way back home

to dwell again in my own private darkness.

No longer hidden in drawers or closets

but instead sitting alone in a small room

that was always too cold or too hot,

too small or bigger than the world.

Everything was wrong.


I saw her again, once, a few years later.

We walked around and talked,

not holding hands or kissing.

I never saw the cross again –

where I saw myself hanging

but I really wasn’t.

In between our second-to-last meeting

and our last,

I fell in love with an atheist.

I never bought her a silver cross

so it was impossible to believe I was hanging

above her breasts

that hid inside her knitted sweater.

She treated me much better


everything was still wrong anyway.




I felt best sleeping while the sun was out,

Curled up on the bed in the cold room naked

Except for a moss-green t-shirt

That had a big hole under the left armpit.


Too old and out of shape to be a menace,

I just waited for the sun to go down

And instead of getting drunk like I used to

I ate some fruit and counted down the


Minutes until the next sunlight

So I could finally get some more good sleep.

I’ve had good days and bad days since the divorce

Became final but I’m moving toward the best day


Of all.




She hangs a thick purple curtain

Before the window where she

Used to watch for me to come

To her as the snow fell upon her

Winding stone steps in the night.


After I passed her sight from

The window she would watch

The swirling snow cover up my

Footprints on the stone steps

Until hearing my knock on the door.


Nights when it snows now she

Can’t help but look out on the steps

Made of stone for the disappearing

Footprints even though she knows

All she will find is a carpet of snow


So she’s hung up her purple curtain

And closed it with a purple sash,

Turning her back on the window

Where she once watched for me

But now closes her eyes imagining


My footprints on her stone steps

Becoming covered in the snow;

My knock on her door as I wait

Below her lamplight for the door

To open and her first warm kiss.


John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. His first poetry collection is forthcoming from Cajun Mutt Press. contains links to his published poetry online.

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