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.
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
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.
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.