Two Poems by John Tustin

Her Shoulder

And what about her shoulder?
How it looked as a soft mound, covered in a blanket,
Her sighing and asleep with her back to you
In the wan still glow of the moonlit dark.
Your shiver of excitement
When she turned over in her sleep
To face you, a look of consternation on her eyelids,
What was almost a secretive smile
Flirting at both corners of her mouth.

And what about her shoulder?
Once she turned over it shook loose
And stared at you, bare.
You looked at the gooseflesh that rose on it
And you put the blanket over it again,
Where it belonged
As she began to snore, right there beside you,
Where she belonged.


Pictures with Words

I am painting pictures with words.
I do it on most nights.
There need not be structure and the image combinations
Are limitless
So why will I write another poem
Where you will see a lone man feeling barely alive,
Prostrate on his bed and hiding from the sun?
I can paint anything:
I can paint birds in the sky,
Worms dancing tribal dances underneath the grass
But I don’t and I won’t.
Why is this?

Today a hawk flew ten feet from my face
And landed in a tree, so high up
He was difficult to see.
He didn’t look at me once.
It was a beautiful moment
But I had no desire to tell you about it –
I’m only telling you now to make my point.
I could paint a little rabbit in the bushes below
And I could write about the triumph of the hawk
Or the escape of the rabbit
And make you happy with either conclusion
But that’s not what I paint.

I won’t paint the light but I will paint the heat.
I won’t paint the growth but I will paint the dark.
I hear a noise and I know the noise must be me.
Even when I try to write a lovely day
It becomes the solemn pounding of a dirge.
The moon comes out of hiding
And I look up at it and it’s pockmarked and ugly.
I want to tell you it’s lovely but I can’t
And it’s not because I won’t lie to you,
No – it’s only because I can’t. I lie to you all the time.
I look in the mirror and I see my narrow hips,
A big gut that sluices over the sides like water
Shaking out of a bucket
And I’ll have to go to funeral after funeral
Until I get to the last one I’ll ever attend.




John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last twelve years. His website contains links to his published poetry online.

“Break the Clasp” by John Tustin

She keeps the banjo Jay bought her
Right beside her bed.

Alex painted her portrait
And it sits on the bedroom wall,
In view of her sleeping body
Night after night after night.

My 500 poems written about her are in a drawer,
Underneath some blankets and a book beneath her bed.
My photo is turned down, wrapped in a shirt in another drawer.
She used to keep it at work, so I was told.

She is going to start practicing the banjo again.
It’s important to her.

The painting by Alex,
Her daughter remarked how much she liked it.
She has no idea who painted it and wouldn’t know his name,
Anyway.

She tells me she will always love me.
She doesn’t love Jay anymore,
Hasn’t for a decade.
She never loved Alex, not even a little.

In another world
All the poems I wrote for her paper her walls.
Before bed she chooses a different one each night to read.
In another world.

In this world
I will always be relegated to the closet,
To be brought out
When the parents or the children are asleep.

She keeps me in a locket.
A locket that she never wears.
I lie in between her spare bedding
And some forgotten boots,
Pushing outward;

Trying to break the clasp.




John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last twelve years. His website contains links to his published poetry online.

“Run Out of Love” by John Tustin

It has happened –
The days run together all the same
And I don’t know if I spoke to you
A day ago or a month.

I wait for you to contact me
And if you don’t
Then we just won’t ever speak again.

The sun coming into the room in the morning
Feels like the stormtroopers bursting in,
Turning drawers and cabinets upside down,
Shredding furniture, breaking windows,
Pouring the liquid from bottles onto the floor.

It has happened –
Even the memories of happiness
Have become so distant and obscure
That it feels as if the moments happened to someone else,
Or perhaps I watched them on television.

I stuff empty plastic bags into other plastic bags;
I am unaware when I am driving or walking alone.
I notice nothing and I am no one to anyone
As I wind down the hours waiting in line at the supermarket,
Waiting for checks to clear.

It has happened –
I’ve run out of love
Before I’ve run out of breath.

Waiting out the clock,
I close my eyes tonight and it feels like all the stars in the sky have vanished.

I’m afraid to open my eyes and go look.




John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last twelve years. His website contains links to his published poetry online.