Wednesday, March 01, 2023

In These Beggar's Hands

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

I opened the windows a bit and I heard
The conspiratorial whisper of the leaves
And they sounded like a million simmering bees
Or perhaps many gently droning violas
As I drove on to my home
To meet no one but my always ugly me.
Within minutes the brightest sun gave way
To the early darkness and as I turned on my
I turned the corner to where I live without love
In such continual disappointment.

My world is not the same since I arrived here.
Slowly, I stopped sending so many letters.
Slowly, I drank more and more often.
Slowly, I stopped hearing the birds over the din
Of the leaves in the morning.
I drink until I am not anything but me
And I put myself to bed to the sound of a
string quartet,
Pretending I am wanted and beautiful.
I never understood the morning language of
But the songs of the leaves moving in the wind
When the nights came earlier,
I understood them so well
Just before the leaves turned red or yellow or
Pushed off, fell down and died.
I also understand their willing deaths.

Soon it will not be leaves falling but stones
And as they fall, I will lie alone among them,
Hearing every utterance as they land.
Closing my eyes and wishing
I was not here
But with them.
With you.
Like always.



She still lives inside of me,
In the blood and in the ink
That leaks from me at times.
I see her sitting across from
Me in the diner as I sit alone
With my eggs and my bacon
And my toast and my second
Cup of coffee the way she used
To really be sitting there.

I lie in bed alone at night and
I still instinctively pretend
For a moment she is the
Pillow beside me, sometimes
Even saying her name before
I remember her betrayals
That were endless and when
I remember myself I curse
Her name and think of some-
Thing or someone else.

I sit at the table and read the
Words of others. Finally her
Face is coming to me less and
Less but then I can feel her
Standing behind me, her
Hand on my shoulder, the
Smell of her hair coming
To my nose. Still, here I am
Again, writing about her.

Still, but less and less.

When she told me that she
Had always loved me she
Admitted she often fantasized
About a man who would elevate
Her and write beautiful words
About her and that is what I
Did until she told me that the
Enormity of such love and
Such words was too much to

Life with me was too much to endure.

Tonight another woman is in
This bed and I am kissing her,
Thinking about no one but
Her and me in this bed, in this
Moment, her body on mine
And we are kissing at once
Passionately and tenderly.
It’s wonderful. She is gone
But someone else is here and
This moment is wonderful. I
Look up at her in the dark and
I can feel the tragedy and the
Apprehension of such lovely
Green eyes but I cannot see
Them in the dark yet I can
Feel their gaze. I feel good.

I am going to be inconsolable
For a while when she gets sick
Of my poetry and she betrays me
Or I her but right now is perfect.

I don’t want to ever turn the lights back on. 


My scars have healed crookedly,
haphazardly like the tree that is bent and
having avoided an obstacle that long ago has
been removed
but still it remains stooped over,

twisted into an unfathomable shape.

My roots so like the roots of that tree—
deep and winding around and through

still things underground that are living
or newly or long dead,
a maze incomprehensible to the eye.
A hurricane may not topple me.
The smallest shift underground may send me

My scars have healed crookedly.
I have healed crookedly.

It may be why I’m still standing,
however stooped I may be.
The ugliest tree in the forest
whose roots still soak up the new rain.


I have these dreams
And in these dreams
Your feet are bare
And you are wearing a white cotton dress

And in these dreams
You are always running
Away from where I am
And you run and you run

And in these dreams
You do not turn back
When I call to you
In the night

And in these dreams
I am held still to the ground
As if my feet are stuck
In a gum or a syrup

And in these dreams
Sometimes your feet are bleeding
And sometimes they are just
Their lovely brown selves

And in these dreams
I never catch you
Because I can never chase you
As you run and run

And in these dreams
You get further and further away
Yet somehow

You are still here.

Why are you still here?


You always come back,
Your oversized and speckled umbrella
Resting atilt in the foyer
With the rainwater drip-dripping.
Your lips enflamed and lovely,
A fog over your eyeglasses.
I drink and I drink
And I listen to the music
And I read the poems of the dead
And I wait for you, closing my eyes.
And you always come back. 

Here you are,
While a banjo and a fiddle play
Behind a perfect standup bass
As the rain falls and falls.
Here you are as I stumble into bed,
Getting in beside me.
For a moment the laundry unfolded is not
On the other side of the bed
But you are
And we listen to this music together
Until I fall off and have my nightmares
Between the fantasies interwoven with
That have been sweetened
With time—
You are 

Kissing me good night
And leaving before the morning

Like you always do
Since my memories have replaced
My days and nights
As I live them now.


Today’s LongerNip:

—John Tustin

I gather all the loneliness
in these beggar’s hands
and fill the scooped-out
repository of my heart.

I gather all the loveliness
in these artisan’s hands
and I construct a ladder
leading to an emptiness.

I gather all the sadness
in these embalmer’s hands
and I close the dead eyes
that have seen too much.

I gather all the gladness
In these reaper’s hands  
and I build a big bonfire
that obturates the stars.


Good morning, and welcome back (and thank you!) to John Tustin, who first appeared in Medusa’s Kitchen on 8/21/22. More of John’s poetry can be found at

March 2023 has come in like a lamb up here in the Sierra foothills, and hopefully there will be a little sunshine for you, wherever you are.

Apologies to Robin Gale Odam for some errors in yesterday’s post: her “just two diamonds now” is a senryu that should stand by itself, not be part of the poem above it, “It Would Change Me”. And “Of Wind and Time” was written by Robin, not by her mother, Joyce. My goodness! Maybe I need new glasses….


 John Tustin

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