Sunday, August 21, 2022

Like a Cat's Paw

—Poetry by John Tustin, 
Myrtle Beach, SC
—Photos Courtesy of Public Domain


Your life is the life of an alchemist
That lives in the tortoiseshell of a realist.

I am a poet and poets cannot live in the now
Or see tomorrow.
For us, it is always the past.
Even the present is something to endure
Until it can be written down later—
Either wrapped in bows,
Its bitterness sweetened
Or else beaten with a truncheon
And buried then dug up
Again and again.

You weave your strands of lead
In a turgid and rote home
Then close your eyes trying to weave it all
Into suits of gold with your magic spells.
You see your consolation-happiness
And loveless tomorrow
Each night in your reflection
And then live it while stirring the milk
Into your morning coffee.
Meanwhile I cling overhead
To these branches of nothing substantial,
Dropping down nightly
Into the chasms of the past
Where I must live alone
With my ring in its dusty box
And all the graves newly dug
And duly desecrated
With fresh words.


I remember the day I lost you first
And I remember the day I lost you most—
On the former day I sat alone as still as a ghost
In front of the window and didn’t even notice the crowd
Parading by;
On the latter day I went to bed and sweated out my guts
Into the sheets while I shivered and sobbed without tears.
The darkness was slow but total.

Some days I feel like I lost you more,
Others I feel like I lost you less.
The less is slowly outbalancing the more day to day
And sometimes most of a day can go by without feeling the non-feeling—
The emptiness like a hole expanding in the pit of my stomach
Where I disappear for a while before coming out of the other side.

Today was a good day—
I didn’t smell your hair or feel your body up against mine
Like a phantom pain for a missing limb
Almost until I turned out the lights and went to bed.
Today I lost you less until the lights went out.

I remember the day I lost you first
And I remember the day I lost you most.
The rest of the days are different than those
And they are quickly diminished,
Then forgotten.


The begging man appears
through the fog
onto my doorstep
and I let him in,
He eats my food
and sleeps in my room
but he never thanks me.
He will not look into my eyes
but instead inspects his own shoes.
He leaves my bathroom stinking;
he makes my clean towels dirty.
He was at my desk today,
writing a letter
and when I looked over his shoulder
I saw his handwriting looked like mine
and it made me sick.
He was writing a letter to you
and when he finished
he asked me for an envelope and a stamp.
I’m asking you not to open it
when you receive it
but if you do,
please don’t answer it
even though the handwriting
resembles mine.


Your every word shatters
As it reaches my ears
Across the telephone

A tiny
Not insignificant
Breaking of glass

And your loneliness
Inside your beautiful
But disappointed skin
Is palpable

The sad small grin
In the tone you speak

Your defenses raised
Although my guns
Were never drawn

Your arms open
Your heart closed
I need everything

Or nothing

Someday you may see
That your heart
Is as exquisite

As your mouth
Your eyes your lips
Your body

And when you know this
Look me up

I’ll make sure
My name
Is in the book

If my heart
Is still
In the game

By some


Her body the color of lightly-creamed coffee,
She shined brightly in the dark.
She touched the hair of my chest
And my very toes emanated contentment.
She kissed me as I kissed her back,
Looking at her eyelids and her black eyebrows
As black as darkness itself against the glowing skin
Of her.
In the space of hours she would be gone from me
And I would have cried in agony
If when she left
She did not take
My very voice
The way that a hurricane
Sweeps away old dead
Timber hollowed out and
Long long ago
By the pitiless forests
Behind the houses
Of those
Pretending to live.


Today’s LittleNip:

—John Tustin

You came to me
Silently, by surprise
And just as quickly
And curtly you left—

As gently, as ferociously
As the pads, the claws,
The soft-furred toes
All at once

Of a cat’s paw.


We have a first-time visitor in Medusa’s Kitchen today! John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009, and contains links to his published poetry online. Welcome to the Kitchen, John, and don’t be a stranger!


—Medusa, reminding you that Poets of Lincoln has a reading this afternoon featuring Judy Brackett Crowe. Click UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS at the top of this column for details about this and other future poetry events in the NorCal area.

John Tustin

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