(Sort of)

in the shadow of the bleeding horse: truths, lies and silence

1. early

born in new hampshire. no memories.
family moved to new york early on.
normal childhood, i suppose, but i was happy to escape it.
at some point, i'm told, my personality was fully formed
and there was no going back.
a lot of memories of drunken adults, of being told to
go and play.
to go.
learn to read.
read everything.

2. glorious youth

the usual obsessions w/ sex-death-loud music.
age fourteen, start writing.
all notebooks for the next 7-8 years luckily lost.
an occasional loner,
early attempts at being an outcast.
long hair, ripped clothes, the discovery of punk rock,
and of channeling anger into something creative.
4 years of college, major in art,
minor in creative writing,
both of which involve zero job skills.
first published work in 1988.
years of dishwashing and cooking follow graduation.

3. four walls

2 room apt., a stereo, a bed, a toaster.
blankets over the windows in the winter.
master the art of the lower case
and the negation of punctuation.
letters from editors accusing me of being a racist/
a woman-hater/
a no-talent dog.
continued obsession with sex-death-loud music.
first collection published in 1991.

4. more walls

fall in love, bigger apartment, marriage.
house, children, new typewriter, computer.
same old notebooks.
first full-length collection published in 2002.

5. roots, influences

always questionable.
try to write like myself, no one else.

the power of margaret atwood is undeniable.
raymond carver.
carolyn chute.

mostly inspired by non-writers.
pollock/tanguy/de chirico/dali/rothko/still/kline/
richter/the translation of the visual into something written.

same attitude applies to music.

6. theories on writing

again, pollock.
to talk about art is the death of art.
let it define itself.

am i my poems? yes and no.
in person, a smartass.
the flipside is the writing. no less real.

revision? no.
the poem is the moment.

study the history of poetry? why?

anger and catharsis.
what else do you need?

7. myths

the drowning boy is real,
and the god of starving dogs,
and the burning girl,
and the woman who loves pain.
i knew them, or knew of them.

the house of the dying man exists.

the bleeding horse was born in the late '80s,
after a picasso sketch.
another five years before it would appear in a poem.
meanings? many of them, and all vague,
or possibly something concrete that's always shifting.

8. the future

always approaching.



this idea of
one sun

of one god

of all of these
women and children
living out their lives
in rape camps

each victim with a name
and every cause with martyrs
and all of the houses on this street
caught in the shallow pools
of their own shadows

the afternoon silent
except for the wind or
an occasional passing car

the back yards empty and the
factories abandoned

the waitresses i've known
all crawling naked
across cold linoleum floors

windows broken and
doors wide open

a mother and daughter found
shot to death in a
rented room

flowers in december
and in january

other atrocities to distract us
in february
and then in march
we go to war

the streets are all grey
with possibility

without end

and do you understand the idea
of one lifetime?

do you believe that words
should taste like broken glass?

consider the babies who have
had their hands and feet amputated
by soldiers in the name
of just causes

consider a young boy
locked in a tiny cage and

his body covered with filth
and with cigarette burns

his death
which goes unnoticed for
almost a week

the way sunlight
never reaches this far

Copyright © 2004 John Sweet