Poetry by John Tustin

Punk Noir Magazine


We are caught in this life

like a cuff on a nail

that has strayed outward

and struggling

tears us

and tears us free

like a cuff

unexpertly extricated

from the grasp of a nail.


I am attempting to cross the painted desert,

Me being the only object in black & white.

It is not the actual Painted Desert

But a desert in a painting

That hangs anonymously

On a wall every bit as anonymous

And I can’t help but wonder

Who painted it

And on whose wall it hangs

And why I must cross it –

Me being the only object in black & white.

These are questions best left to those

Who rot away in universities during the day

And sink into plush chairs at night,

A book in one hand and a glass of something in the other.

I’m too busy trying to cross the painted desert

To wonder for more than a moment –

About who or why or where I’m going as I crawl along,

My tongue swollen with thirst

And if I ever do get to the edge,

What to do when I meet the frame?

Ask the people at the university –

I have so much more crawling to do. 


She hung me from this silver chain

And there I dangled

Between her breasts

While she waited for her Prince Charming

To come back

And lay one on her.

She nailed me to this silver cross

That hung on a silver chain

That dangled between her breasts

And I was not there to save her

From the atrocities of sinning

But because she loved nailing me in.

I spun around and around,

Dizzy and nailed in,

Hanging between her breasts

On a silver chain around her neck

Until Prince Charming returned

On his long white steed.

Suddenly I was no longer

Hanging from a silver chain

That dangled between her breasts

But somewhere unknown instead;

Darker and even lonelier, less holy:

Still firmly nailed on a silver cross.


the sun is soaked in blood.

the trees gripped in fever,

the stones under our feet

hotter than hell: they are

sweating in the noonday

and we walk on and on

for no simple reason but

only for the sensations

of movement. then the

meteors get to falling

out of the sky blood red

as we scream and beg

the God who does not

exist but really…think

about it – are you not

relieved? even as the

fire rips through your

guts you must admit

to being relieved that

it’s all finally come to

an end (just in time).


Prose-writers are instructed to lie,

Poets to tell the truth;

Yet when the prose-writer comes close

To the truth he is praised;

When the poet builds a beautiful lie

He is deposed.

With that said I will tell you the ugly truth –

Man worships the graven image,

God is dead

And the soul is a dim red coal close to ash.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.