The Home – a poem by John Ian Bush


Part One


Today we visited my Grandma Allison at the nursing home.

I walk through the automatic doors to the smell of urine,

To the sound of ringing phones

And to the screaming voices of the old:

“Where am I?”

“Who are you?”

“God damn it, I wanna go home!”

“Hey, you God damn fool, I wanna go home!”

“Can no one hear me! I’m telling you I wanna go home!”

“Don’t touch me, I don’t know you!”


Decoying bodies.

Wrinkled skin.


Adult dippers.

Oxygen machines!

Their groans!

“I need help!” cries an old man in a bed at the end of the hall. “You rotten bastards! You faggots! You son-of-bitches! Somebody help me!”


In the lobby, the old pale withered people in their sad worn wheel chairs sit around the television, the weather channel is playing — old people love the weather channel; some smile, some sleep, some mutter to themselves words of nonsensical madness.


“I can’t breathe!” the man at the end of the hall screams! “You son-of-bitches! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”


The feeling of death and approaching death is overwhelming.

I began to think that bed sores have a smell.

Vaseline, God, the smell of it!

They must wash the walls with it!

The windows and counters must be washed with preparation H!

Everything smells like piss, fish and rubbing alcohol.


“I can’t breathe!”

He never stops screaming.








I can’t Breathe!”


The workers and the nurses all ignore this.

I.Vs seem to outnumber the people in this Hell hole.

I was starting to feel very Nihilistic.



Part Two



Finally, we’re in Grandma Allison’s room.

She is a stick now,

wrapped in thin, almost yellow skin,

Dressed in a tired old night gown,



Feet cover with thick socks.

“How are you?” we asked.

She just stared.


“How are you feeling today?” we asked.

She turned away.


“We love you,” we said.

She moaned in pain.


“I can’t breathe! You fuckers! You fuckers! You fuckers! You faggots! You fat whores!” yelled the man down the hall.


And she moaned again!

That moan!

That moan!

I thought she’d die with that moan!


The Home is full of moans

And Groans!

And cries

And more moans!



And fucks!

And Helps!

And yelps!

And ringing telephones!


The Home is full of shrieks!

And squeal!

And men bawling!

And eyes with tears!

And nurses wearing scrubs and fake grime smiles wheeling in meals,

Meat and potatoes that Grandma Allison won’t eat.


Screams in God’s Pillow – a poem by John Ian Bush

Part one

To God,

God, I have a friend that sells heroin to feed his daughter.

God, There’s grown men and grown women who hang out at public parks;

Who stay there all day because they have nowhere else to be;

The men talk about pussy and fuck the police, and fuck the mayor, and fuck the senators, and fuck the governors, and fuck the president and vice president, and fuck the speaker of the house, and fuck the whole God damned government, while the women sit and smoke and smoke and smoke and watch the children.

God, what do you think about this? I’m not being sarcastic.

God, my friends and I stand outside carry-outs in the cold, they suck on tobacco sticks and we all tell story after story after story after story, true stories, and we laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh and love each other as brothers.

God, my friends and I watch from that same carry-out as drunk old booze hounds with cartoon-like smiles and big goofy drunken eyes stumble through the parking lot with shacking legs of rubber;

we watch them go into the carry-out, then watch them trip back out of the glass door with a case of beer and a good mood.

God, I live around bars, bars, bars, bars, bars that have beautiful neon signs that are big and gorgeous and blinding.

God, the music coming from the bars vibrate in a way that makes the hearts of men and women sing to the same muffled distant hum.

God, I live among fast food joints that are open until mid night,

Gas stations open until one,

Drug dealer don’t sleep until the sun comes up.

God, I have friends that live on the highway with the road kill and in flop house with fat cock roaches and skin and bone addicts and hungry dogs who walk around hoping for degraded scraps in trash cans.

God, let me talk to you about the flop houses;

Dirty, grimy floor boards,

carpets covered in dog shit,

Someone’s always sleeping on the couch,

Refrigerators leaking and are always empty,

Sinks full of dirty dishes,

Often there’s no running water.

God, I know children who are dirty, shirtless, pant less, shoeless and sockless;

Who run around on concert all day long;

Who are raised by street liter, blacktop pavement and TV;

Who come back to their parents at night, hungry and with bleeding feet stick with shards of glass.

God, what are your thoughts on public housing apartments?

There the people are fed up, some hungry, some high, some drunk, some angry, most are scared, some hang out at the park and talk about fuck the police, but all are screaming alone in their souls;

There are people all across America screaming alone in their souls, and all across America, you can open your bed room windows and hear these screams.

Will you listen?

You can hear my screams too, God.

I’m screaming.

God, are you screaming?

Have you ever shut your bedroom door, flopped down on your bed and screamed into your pillow?

God, what do you think of my friend, Dylan?

He stumbled into Sam Boone’s apartment, toothless, drunk, high on heroin, no shirt, dirt covered pants, flip flops on his feet and track marks up his arms.

He cried that night to any ear that would listen about suicide, suicide, suicide, homicide, suicide, prison time, prison time, homicide, and, finally, his four homeless children, then he ran back out of the apartment, up the street, fell down, vomited down his chest and arms, got back up and kept on crying and running.

Can Dylan find redemption?

God, I’m trying to speak to you directly.

Part Two

God, I imagine that over all the world, the Angel’s are crying.

I imagine they’re weeping over every empty belly and empty bowl of ever hungry child.

God, I imagine the angels are cutting artery and vain, bleeding willingly, over the heads of every sad whore that walks the streets




Red eyed and high

Hoping that they’ll wake up the next day, sober, see the dry blood on their foreheads and howl with joy.

I imagine that over every little girl that sees a bottle of pills and is reminded of their mother, they groan.

God, I imagine that above every sad soul who, at night, stumbles home, hopeless and high or drunk, haggard, dragging their feet on pavement with nothing more on their minds then sleep and the next high, the Angels scream the same as I scream and the others scream.

God, I ask you again, are you screaming?

Part Three

Despite crying Angels and everybody screaming in their souls, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that there’s mothers that are mothers.

I’m thankful for every father that loves their young.

I’m thankful for all my friends that would feed me if I was hungry.

I’m thankful for every friend I can feed.

I’m thankful for every day my brother wakes up and isn’t in a depression.

I am thankful that I can stand out in the cold with friends and laugh and love and suck on tobacco sticks.

Yes we scream, but I am thankful that we all can scream together.

Fear of Bombs – a poem by John Ian Bush

At Eight,

I went to church

And prayed at an alter

Below stone Jesus,

Hanging on cross and bleeding:

Both Stone eyes staring down at me.

The preacher promised


God’s protection.

“Jesus loves you.”

I was baptized,

In front of


Soaked in perfume.


Drunk and freshly shaven.



In front of stone Jesus,

Still hanging, bleeding.

“I’m sorry, Jesus. Please, protect me,” I whispered.

At Nine,

I wept in front of Television.

Newsman said,

“The whole worlds went to Hell, nobody can do a damn thing about it.”

No sign of Jesus.

At Ten,

I asked my consoler, “Is there a pill for the fear of bombs?”

At Eleven,

I spent nights pacing floors,

Went days without sleep.

When I did sleep,

I woke up crying under my sheets,




Under my nose was my bedside mop bucket.

It was full of my nervous vomit.

One night,

I got up, wrapped my naked body in comforter,

Ran out to the back yard,

Fell on grass,

On my knees,

Dug my fingers in dirt,

Looked up to moon and Heaven and cried, “But Jesus loves me! Jesus loves me!”

God is Love – a short story by John Ian Bush

Part One

Joey Mullins and I walked together, high on pot in the cold of a  January evening, across the levee. We were heading to a fast food place down town, a place I had a gift card for. He was wearing the red and black flannel we gave him for Christmas and a pair of my jeans, no coat.

“God is love,” Mullins told me; Mullins was always trying to convince me to turn to God when we got high. “God is love. I realized today that I haven’t been able to count on anybody besides God my whole life. God is love, man.”

I took his hand and I told him, “I love you.” He told me the same.

“Everybody loves you, Tom, you know why?” he said. “It’s because you’re the kind that takes in strays like me.”

We got to the fast food place, the girl at the counter took  our order. We were still stoned, so we kept stammering and laughing and forgetting if we like horse radish on roast beef or not. We got our food, finally, and took a seat at the table and started eating.

“I’m going to join the Navy!” Mullins said, loudly, almost shouting, excited.

“You can’t join the damn Navy,” I said just as loud. “You can’t even swim, for Christ sakes!”

“You can work around that,” he said.

The girl at counter came out and asked us to leave, because we were pissing off the other customers, so we started

for the door with our tray, but before we did, Mullins tried hitting on the her. He told her that he didn’t have a job or any money or prospects, but he’s considering a career in the Navy and he’s actively seeking a relationship with God. We left without her name or number.

We started across the highway. I took off my coat and put it over his shoulders. I told him it was his turn to be warm. Mullins turned towards me, he smiled and said with earnest, “Man, but seriously, though, God is love.”

Part Two

Joey and I sat under a big gray barked tree in the park, we had just smoked a fat joint of wet marijuana behind a bar off of ninth street. We were sharing a Pepsi bottle full of cheap grape wine I took from my grandma’s refrigerator, we were celebrating.

We were celebrating springtime; we both shared the feeling that, with spring, everything was somehow becoming brand new and exciting; the two of us, high, smiling, exciting, horny, happy, full of shit and now alcohol, were somehow, with spring, brand new and excited.

I laid my head down on the green spring grass and looked up to the sky, the sun was setting.

The sky was big, pink and gorgeous, and it was staring down at Mullins and me.

Mullins took a healthy drink, wiped off his mouth with his sleeve, the corner of his lips and the skin under his nose was stained red. He looked at me, handed me the bottle and said, “That’s God’s sunset, you know.”

I took my drink, a few drops ran down my chin and spotted my new white shirt. “Is that right?” I said.

“Tom, I’m tellin’ ya,” he said, “that’s God’s sunset. Just look at it, big and pure and beautiful, that’s God. That’s got God written all over it.”

“Well,” I said, standing up, “I’ll WORSHIP that sunset!” I took off my shoes, shirt and my socks, took another drink and started dancing around the gray tree and I laughed, raising my hands high to my wide pink God. “Oh, holy sunset, Hollow be thy name!” I fell to my knees and looked  up at Mullins and said, “St. Joey, you’re a modern damn prophet of the one true God!”

He said, “No, I’m just a humble servant.

I took his hands and looked him right in the eyes and said, “You are a man among men! The Messiah of the broke and stoned!”

He laughed and said, “You fuck around all you want, man, but God is love.”

Remembering Old Paul – a poem by John Ian Bush

Part One

To Paul, my father,

I’m writing to you:


You wear the smell of cheap beer and the smoke of several dozen unfiltered cigarettes.

My father,

In my innocence I saw you as monster.


You search through trash bins,

Aching for relief from the bottle.

My father,

You run to the V.A. and you don’t find a healing.









You’re body has failed you,

Now you walk with a limp.


I’ll pity you now and I’ll mourn you later.


At night you can be heard crying loudly in your apartment.


You give shelter to junkies and pill heads,

But with me and my brother, you sit, ask questions and count your cigarettes.

My father,

You’re a sad stranger to my sister.

My father,

You soiled our front room furniture,

While mother cried at the dining room table.


I vomited in the bath room sink from nerves,

You left me there to cry over the whole mess.

My father,

I gave you shoes in the middle of a cold winter when your feet were bare.


You wear those shoes every day.


You choked my pregnant mother in your bed room,

Her head against head board,

Her face red,

Her body squirming over sheets,

I watched from doorway,

Four years old.

I prayed for God.


also red faced,

Mad eyed,

Breathing heavy,

Shouting, “Whose is it? Whose baby? Whose baby?”


Somewhere in my soul, mother is still chocking.


Somewhere in my soul, I’m still praying for God.

Part Two

We were alone in your apartment.

Your apartment nearly empty:

You’re television sat on the old water damaged coffee table in the corner,

Your DVD player lied on the worn carpet,

Your mattress sat,

No box springs,

You slept without pillow,

Wetted newspapers were your ashtrays.

The whole place was filled with a gray cloud of

Cigarette and marijuana smoke,

Everything was covered in dust.

You sat in your sad recliner, orange and red,

It sagged.

I checked your kitchen,

No food,

Cabinet bare,

No cups,

No bowls,

No plates,

No pots or pans.

Your trash can a mountain,

Of shinny tin beer cans


Tall brown bottles.

You spoke tenderly:

“I’m old now,” you said. “I’m old now and alone and I’m in pain.”

“Every day I ache!” you shirked, agony,

You cried.

“I know,” I said, “I know.”

“I think about jumping out of my window everyday!”

“I worth more to you dead than what I am alive.”

This you’ve told me since I was ten or younger.

Tears ran from eyes,

Down cheek bones,

Off chin,

To hands,

To carpet at feet.

“I’m sorry,” you said.

I held you.

Your tears,

And drool

Soaked through my shirt.

I didn’t mind.