John Tustin

ALL THESE SMILES OF CHILDREN
 
All these smiles of children that life has slain
In the microscope of its reality.
I have found a smile in this one memory
When I was a boy and digging for dinosaur bones in my backyard –
Something that has come to me
As I fold my shirts and think about how good it felt
To fold my children’s shirts and put them away
Another life ago when I was with them every day
And they were my only reason to look forward to tomorrow
In a life of otherwise torment.
 
All these smiles of children that are removed by the realities of life:
I can see them now thinking about my dinosaur books, my wildlife books,
My book on the birds of North America
And how I would use them to draw all day and night
Back in those days
When I was not thinking for a moment
That anything was possible or impossible
Or what would happen beyond
The next day or week or month.
 
All these smiles of children and I think about
My children who do not smile 
And sometimes it is because of me
And I hope they have memories like mine
Of digging in the yard or whatever they loved
At a similar moment in their time
And that it is possible I helped to give them
Such a memory
And it keeps them warm
On this cold cold night.
 
Of that I pray
And it is my only
Prayer.



LOVE AND DISASTER
 
I loved her when she hated me
And now that I hate her at last
She has decided again to love me.
It’s too late for me, 
I’ve already been ruined by her
But I think about her decision anyway,
Knowing that no matter what happens
I will die alone one day
In a bed without affection.
These magical threads
That twist, hold us still and bind us –
Part mud, part thunderbolt
Slogging through and jolting our veins,
Gunking up and jumpstarting our flabby hearts –
Of human confusion and nuisance
That for thousands of years
Have linked love and disaster
As I grow older but not wiser,
Standing in my doorway waiting
As the shadows overtake me
The way they overtake us all –
Slowly and without notice.

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