Five Poems by John Tustin



The Dead Appear to Live

Looking out the window of the winter morning
And seeing the blue white sheen over the fallen leaves
That makes the dead appear to live.

Dressing in the morose stillness
Of the not-quite-light.
Putting on my socks
As the cat eyes me with her typical combination
Of boredom, disdain and distant affection.
Stepping out the door and wincing
At the whip crack of the frosted wind.
The air is fingers running down my spine,
Slapping my face and planting a kiss.

Home and drinking my coffee,
Staring at the nicked and smudged table
As I lay down the cup.
I turn my eyes to no one
Because I’m alone here.
Bringing the cup to my lips,
Tasting the heat before I taste the liquid
And wishing I could be anywhere else
At this moment
Than this chair,
This room,
This house,
This world.


A Deepening Flower

Our love is
A deepening flower
The soil spits out
At the command
Of the ugly sun

The roots soaked
In the kerosene of our tears

And Mother Earth jeers

As the flower blooms
In secret

In the places
The sun does not touch


It Gets Like This Sometimes

I had a rough day of work
And a rough day
Waiting for death
And when I got home it only took me an hour and a half
To get drunk
My ears burning
And I called the kids
But the phone just rang.

I ate Chicken Tikka Masala
And Naan
And I drank beer after beer
Watching television
And otherwise wasting my moments
I was even thinking
Of you
Like I always do.

It’s a bad day
A bad night
But they’re
All bad days bad nights
This one’s worse than most
I have no idea why.

It gets like this sometimes
The silence of impotent screams
Builds and builds
And licks her waves up against
This emptiness inside
And it’s almost too much
To feel.

I just want to sleep
I can’t sleep
Bugs in my brain
And I need to shower
And I finally talked to my son
But he had nothing to say.

So listening to Loudon Wainwright sing
Thinking this is all that keeps me
From teetering in the wrong direction
I stand on the bridge’s precipice
And wonder how it would feel
To leap
Balancing pole first

The ghosts move
From kitchen to living room
To bedroom with me
And they sit at the edge of the bed
As I lie there in morbid torpor
And they glare from the edge of my mind.

Just another night alone
Like the other nights but worse
It gets like this sometimes
I know it does
And the understanding of that
Keeps me
Properly centered
On this

At least for



I think about you, loveless,
That servile smile in your eyes
When you tell him you love him
And give him that kiss goodnight
Sweetened with the two children
You have made.

I think about the last letter you wrote
And the last letter I wrote
And that I do not go back and read yours
And you probably never go back
And read mine.

Tonight, for just a moment,
I fell to my bed and your hair,
Those wonderful black corkscrews,
They fell all over my chest
But then I was alone again,
Just as I should be.

Just as I am meant to be.

Tonight, the entire night,
You slept beside him
But thought about my beard and hair,
Both salted and longish
And when you kissed him,
You winced

Because his kiss was not mine.
So much worse than when I lie in bed
And kiss
No one.

Just as we were meant to be.


My Face In Your Mirror

I waited with you until your train came,
Then I sat in my car and watched it leave,
Content that I would see you again.
I touched my face and my fingers smelled
Vaguely of the perspiration in your hair
From last night and it gave me this giddy
Little twist in my stomach.

I thought about your whispered words
And I thought about your voice like smoldering
Candles and I thought about your hands on me
And I thought about your hair and your mouth
And your hips and your legs and your belly
And those deep dark consoling eyes.

When I got back home I went into the bathroom,
Ran the water in the sink and splashed some
On my face and in my hair and when I rose
I looked in the mirror and I looked
Absolutely beautiful.

I really did.


About the Author

John Tustin started to write again in 2008 after a ten year hiatus and his published poetry can be found at