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John Tustin


Every literary journal claims to be searching far and wide
For the poet who is not like the others;
The poet who has been previously and permanently excluded
By society at large and the literary gatekeepers in particular

And I want to tell them about
How I loved her more than anyone could;
How my hate is as spectacularly unique
As my love;

That I graduated from nowhere,
I learned only through life, the books I’ve chosen,
The pain I’ve internalized, the rays of sadness
That beam from my house alone;

That I’m the only me there is,
My uniqueness extends everywhere –
From the words I choose to my odd gait
To the thoughts I think and attempt to convey

And that my cover letter doesn’t say anything
Not better expressed in the packet of poems
They may or may not end up reading
After they decide whether or not I’m in the Class of the Excluded.


He put the pistol in my hand.
Don’t ask me what kind,
I didn’t know anything about guns.

They found the place where we were hiding.
I could see the light from flashlights
and the sounds of people trying not to make noise.

“I don’t know anything about guns,”
I whispered
as the noises downstairs got louder and closer.

“You better figure it out quick,” he said,
“or you’ll be learning about bullet wounds
in about two minutes.”

It took about ninety seconds
but I figured it out.
I’ve always responded to deadlines.

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


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