AN IMMIGRANT ON THIS EARTH
I killed my friends one by one, Tossing them as seemingly nonchalantly off the cliffs Of my mind As a terrorist or a pirate Or an eager soldier Kills the innocent Or those presumed to be guilty By circumstance Or the frailties of their own predisposed Bias. I walked in little more than dead And walked out so much worse Than merely dead. I look at this small painting Just brown throbbing sadness On my wall As the waves come endlessly To the helpless sand; As the thunder bellows her thunder, The lightning strikes targets Either intended or not And I wait for the rain To fall Upon me And elsewhere (I killed my friends One by one Decades after each one Murdered me And then forgot where they buried The body.) And fall upon me It does. I open another can of beer And step outside, shirtless, Letting the rain fall over me In little rivers of self-importance As the words I have written run their ink Down the page I am holding Into the gutters Of everything so unimportant It is forgotten As it is written. The ink becomes incomprehensible tattoos On my hands and forearms And the horror evident In my eyes. All my lovers left me, Even the ones I left And now I am here Imagining I am being abandoned Right this moment By those who abandoned me Long ago. Me, an immigrant on this earth With the responsibility to work hard At being human And leaving involuntarily While impacting the maximum Positively And the minimum Negatively. The water runs over me. I shiver despite the heat. Another baptism And baptism does Nothing But assuage the guilt Of those most guilty. They sigh in relief As demons bat their wings, Knowing what is real. The rain subsides. I step inside And open the refrigerator, Pull out another can of beer, Open it In the barely light Of a room bathed in An early evening storm. I pour the can into a glass And then tip the glass. No one sees me. All my friends dead, My lovers gone And on and on like that: Especially you Who was the best of both. I drink to you And I drink to them! Despite them And because of them And also Fuck them…
THE SADNESS OF TATTOOS
Every mistake and misstep of my past Is worn by me like The sadness of tattoos, The emptiness of tattoos, Upon my face, My body. Prison tattoos Created out of terror, Covering up the fear That inhabited every step I took In this cell We all mistake For freedom. The tattoo on my neck Is of a flower trampled by an army Of the faceless. The tattoos on my fingers All of the words I typed and lost During the decades of hurricanes And displacement. They are too small to read. The sleeves on my arms The sleeves of desperation And a need to be wanted or, at least, Noticed. The tattoo on my belly, The tattoos on my arms, My legs, just painful memories I wrapped up in the warmth Of learning or nostalgia. How stupid I am to make my idiocy indelible To anyone who sees me naked. Your name is, of course, Emblazoned on my chest With a dragon and some flames And shit. Something like that. The tattoos on my eyes? Well, you put them there yourself, my dear. They keep me from seeing clearly And they cannot be removed With a hot knife or the scalpel of time And tattoos are certainly not something A man could wish away Or they would be gone, I promise. I walk shirtless across the prison yard, Not standing out from the others. No, no more or less stained Than most of the rest Of them Although I imagine myself Their king And most of them imagine The very same about themselves. I must be the king, though – It says so all across my back, Between the scars made from the beatings With the strop
TONIGHT HAS COMMONALITY
Tonight, I imagine Has a commonality With what will be The very end – I lie here with my eyes shut Fighting off the inevitable sleep Thinking just one thought While the music plays: One more song! Just one more.
John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.