John Tustin

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many literary journals, online and in print, in the last dozen years. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

AGILE ENOUGH

  You pretend to be clumsy
 With those ungainly hands and feet
 That knock over water glasses
 And trip over stones
  
 But you were agile enough
 To duck my forward pass
 To block my affection
 And avoid my tender words
  
 Leaving me dejected enough
 To hang my head
 To drop my cards
 To cry into my empty hands
  
 You’re an emotional running back
 You’re a pitcher that gets out
 Of a bases loaded jam
 Without a run scored
  
 You’re agile enough
 To hang suspended
 On the same rope
 I strangle on
  
 To get up
 Unharmed
 From this collision
 That’s left me a cripple 

ICEBERG

 Who will you talk to
 When one of us
 Or both of us
 Has finally had enough
 Of the distance 
 And the ledge-jumping?
  
 I’ve been thinking about it all day.
 Who will you tell?
 Who will tell you?
 Who will hold you in the arms
 Of their words
 And rock you to sleep at night?
 Who will tell me I am good
 When I am in flux?
  
 I haven’t seen you for two years
 Or known you in more,
 If I ever really knew you.
 I don’t know much 
 Of anything.
  
 One day will be the last,
 You breaking off from me
 Or me from you
 Like an iceberg
 That has melted in the wrong place
 Just enough
 To become much less
 Than whole.
  
 Crack
 And then you go there
 And I stay here.
 No one else will even notice.
  
 Dinner for one
 Is burning on the stove.
 Time is up for tonight.
  
 Who will you talk to
 When one of or both of us
 Has had enough?
 I am better off
 Not knowing
 But 
 How I wish
 I could be
 Him.
 I’ll be thinking about it
 All night. 

TENNESSEE RED

 With her liberal politics
 And her anti-god fixation
 Married to that sweet Aw Shucks accent;
 Her hair like falling embers
 Tumbling in the landscape like rain
 Behind the sunset,
 Her eyes darker and deeper than the landscape before the sunset -
 O God Yes.
  
 She purred in my ear for a minute,
 Treating me with sutures
 Because mending is her job
 And her fixation,
 My heart torn open,
 The blood greasing the floor.
  
 I wish I was her only patient,
 The only consumptive for whom she presumed to lie beside
 As she dabbed the fevered forehead with a washcloth,
 Cooing that when we got better we could really get to know each other.
 If only I was her only patient.
  
 She is a gambler and she bets across the board.
 I insist on being the longshot who wants it all bet on him,
 May we live as losers together in my lost-race squalor,
 When, inevitably, I lose.
 I still imagine such soft lips pressed like a tourniquet
 To my neck,
 Brown-red hair an untamped fire licking flames on my chest
 As I held her body to mine,
 Wishing I could look into such eyes as dark,
 As brown-black as the guts of a ripe cherry
 As they burrowed holes into me.
 I wish.
  
 She has moved on to others –
 Drug-addled players and men unknown to me.
 They may touch her flesh
 As well as her heart 
 (and look snazzy in a three piece suit)
 And I was never given such an opportunity
 And would not want it
 Unless the lot was my own.
  
 Tennessee Red,
 Calmer of fears,
 Stirrer of desires,
 I wanted you; body, heart, mind,
 All of it. 
 I wish I was man enough
 To pull your face toward mine
 By those flames of crimson hair
 And kiss you with all my ardor,
 Causing the other gentleman callers to fold their cards upon the sight,
 Me leaving my bluffing twin deuces 
 Face down to win you.
 Twin deuces at most.
 Tennessee Red,
 Your voice was violas kissing violins in my ears
 And your face was made to be kissed, your ears
 Confessed to in the naked bed of afterward.
 I never met you
 But I do miss you.
  
 How you are or
 Who I thought you were.
  
 I hope you never read this.
 I wish you would.
 You said
 I was becoming your favorite drunken poet
 As you sent me a picture of that flaming hair
 Encasing teeth and eyes smiling
 But 
 Not smiling just for me
 I came to know
 And then it seems 
 As the nights dwindled
 I just
 Never became
 Anything more
 Than a face in the crowd. 

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