Jason Ryberg is the author of seven books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, several angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors, and a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel. He is currently an artist-in-residence at The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and an aspiring b-movie actor. His latest collection of poems is Down, Down and Away (co-authored with Josh Rizer and released by Spartan Press). He lives in Kansas City, Missouri with a rooster named Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe. Feel free to look up his skirt at jasonryberg.blogspot.com
1) PISSING OFF THE BACK PORCH (OR,
GOLDEN LIGHT IN THE SHADOW
OF THE COMING DARKNESS)
Cars screech and growl
at the intersection
of 9th and Massachusets Street
like juiced-up linemen
surging to fire off the ten-yard line.
A crazed dalmation chases
the last Tiger Swallowtail of summer
through the late afternoon
and into evening.
A train is sounding-off somewhere
and the tubercular case across the street
hacks and coughs and wheezes out
a “sweet jesus!”
and the flowers and trees are making
one last go of it into the towering
on-set of night.
And me? I’m just sitting here,
wondering what it is
I’m supposed to be doing
or who or where I’m supposed to be
in the grand (or even less than
grand) scale of things
or what to do with the time
and the place at the table
that have been given to me.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, and all,
who couldn’t love this life, or,
that is to say the grand idea, anyway,
of “the good life” and/or “living one’s life to its
fullest” (or even just to its most logical conclusion)
even if it is among the misfit toys
and banged-up odds and ends and gothic ruins
(of mine, or someone else’s
Still, sometimes you have to wonder
whether it really is nobler
to constantly suffer the jibes
and slights and sick little jokes
of life’s more overly familiar
devil’s (and angel’s, alike),
especially when, maybe,
you don’t have to.
Or, do you somehow divine a way
to rise above the whole surging,
slimy mosh-pit of it all
toxic stew of it all)
like a flock of water-fowl
taking to the sky
and fly, fly away, baby,
fly, fly away.
What you better get straight, though,
is all your cryin,’ pleadin’ and bitchin’
down here at the ground zero of our own making
is wasted on dark gods gone deaf
(and a little near-sighted, too).
Hell, most likely it all winds up
as dirt in the ground, anyway.
You, your family, your friends and enemies,
your cars, your clothes, your big-screen plasma TVs,
your quarter-million dollar uber-suburban
wharehouse/car-port you call a home,
all that shit you kill yourself for
that’ll never, ever save you
from the ever-looming reducto absurdum
of old age and the grave;
every damn, least-divisible unit of it;
dirt in the ground
beneath a mile-high layer of ice
the experts are saying
will be on top of us
any day now.
The best you can hope for
is a few good laughs
and a quick death.
So, while there’s time,
maybe you should just go ahead
and throw open all the windows
and doors tonight:
who cares what it’s like outside!?
Go ahead and make yourself
another Maitai or Gin Ricky,
Rum Runner or Mohito or whatever
and turn that music up, a little,
while you’re at it!
Drink one for fallen family,
friends and enemies alike
and feel free to howl with laughter
at that silver-dollar moon
(‘cause you know, damn well, baby,
he’s laughin’ at you,)
as you water the Moonflowers
with your grief,
your raging thirst for life,
your liquid golden light
2) THIS POEM IS MOCKING YOU
starts from a postcard
from a place that no longer exists
(found in a book, never finished);
the book; Boccaccio’s “Decameron,”
the postcard; “A View of Mainstreet, Studley, KS,
Boccaccio; whereabouts unknown,
Studley, KS; ninety years beneath a lake.
will have cold pizza
and orange juice for breakfast,
followed by three steep cups
of gritty black coffee
while sifting through
John Lee hooker’s blues,
the 1952 Farmer’s Almanac,
and the local classifieds
for something new to chew on,
something to stoke the Languishing Ember Of Hope,
something to clip out and keep
in its musty scrapbook of a brain,
something to fly on the end of a string
in the middle of a summer thunderstorm.
This poem will slowly begin
to find strange names
and phone numbers in its pockets,
coffee stains in its margins,
wrinkles in its face
and stress-fractures in its logic.
This poem will be wadded up
and banished from the court,
mauled by a one-eyed, three-legged tom-cat
named Lucky Ned,
rescued, reconstructed and rehabilitated,
then put back in the running
with a new lease on life.
Later, upon closer examination,
It will be discovered
to have developed night-vision
and a web-site with no domain.
will break its chain
and jump the fence
to wander freely
through the dark, haunted forests
of young girl’s dreams.
will pay fines for pissing
on the Washington Monument,
Grants Tomb, The Alamo,
The George Brett Super Highway
and The Ronald Reagen Memorial something-or-other.
will do time for attempting to bribe public officials
and go joyriding in a ‘62 purple Impala,
returning it unharmed at dawn.
will have itself forwarded
to the Great Unknown,
be found in a bottle
on the shore of Galapagos
and ride-out the rest of the 21st century
folded up in the inside left breast pocket
of Joe Bannano’s overcoat.
This poem will saturate the matrix
and circle the globe,
Then, when it’s used up
all its privileges and favors,
made too many of the wrong enemies,
burned too many bridges
and racked up way too much debt,
It will suddenly erupt
into an unfathomable mushroom cloud
of chain letters, computer viruses
and nagging late-night suspicions,
leaving the world
More or less.
3) CENTERING YOUR CHAKRA
Nothing especially tragi-glamorous
or hardcore blue collar neo-beat
about cracking an egg into a beer
at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning while
watching the 700 Club,
nothing world-wearily decadent
or anti-romantically nu-kowskian
about not having filed a tax return
for who knows how many years, now,
nothing in there that’s gonna net you
an honorable mention (or even
a minor addendum) in anybody’s rolls,
records or register of highly conspicuous
anti-socials (except maybe
your own, of course).
And it looks like it’s
a Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull, this time,
and maybe a pull off the Old Overholt Rye
(what some of us around these parts like to call
maybe even one or two more (of each)
to facilitate the (Lordy, Lord, I must say)
much-needed shit, shower and shave routine
and all before I’ve even had my coffee
and/or some semblance of breakfast
(really, Mr. Ryberg, what can you be thinking?).
And, whereas I can fully understand
how and why my mother might not quite
be able to wrap her brain around this
(only occasional and, I suspect, primarily
male) ritual and might even recoil in
low-to-mid-level horror and disgust and
maybe even cry a little later
when she thinks about what’s
befallen her once beautiful baby boy
(or, more likely, what he be fallen into),
surely the Old Man wouldn’t begrudge me
this momentary indulgence or judge, too harshly,
me and the lifestyle that I swear I somehow
just seem to have woken up inside of, one day.
Surely he must have had a few days
like this special-delivered from the wrong
side of nowhere to the ground-zero/crosshairs
of his world, back in the day when he
was a free-wheeling bachelor about town
(despite our fairly divergent paths,
worldviews and ways
and maybe also the fact that he was a charming,
good looking jet-fighter pilot with the classic
little black book of numbers and names,
a Corvette Stingray and a Jack Kennedy
haircut you could set your watch by).
Surely he wouldn’t overly depreciate the idea,
despite the (very real and afore-mentioned)
differences in our lives, that it’s just something
you have to do, every now and then,
to locate your zen, “center your chakra”
and/or get your head right again
before paratrooping back out
into the not my job/not my problem,
I got mine/you get yours,
what have you done for me lately?,
corporate, confederate, theoligarchy
of these Distended States
of AmurKKKa, Inc.
p.s. They say the Lord is coming.
Better look busy.
4) MEAN BOY LOOKING FOR HIS GUN
(OR, PORTRAIT OF THE “WORD” AS
MUSE, MASTER AND ESTRANGED,
Let’s have another go at The Word, shall we,
my fellow frustrated tasters of the humble/
hind tit/squirrel pie of poetry (and all other
writer wanna-be types, as well,)
those of us who sometimes find ourselves
standing on the verge of calling it off,
those of us just about to walk away
and find a new substitute religion (if but
the Great American Mega Church of
Cheap Labor, Easy Credit and Unlimited
Let’s smack it around a little, shall we?
Give it something to really think about
and let it sob and moan, all alone,
late into the night, for a change,
instead of languidly lolling and lounging about
on the crisp, pristine propriety of the officially
certified and validated page
or prancing about on a well-lit stage where
people are at least somewhat obligated
by genteel, bourgeois convention to
politely acknowledge its presence and
quaint, little performances, regardless.
Let’s be coy and capricious with it.
Let’s play passive/aggressive games with it.
Let’s get it swashbuckling, snot-slinging,
knee-walking drunk, then poke and prod it
off the high-dive, into the deep end
of the gene pool where sneering sorority girls
and high-end hipster chicks circle and snap
sarcastically at all its pleas and cries for help.
Let’s call it on the phone at odd hours,
then hang up after the inevitable,
“goddamn it, I know it’s you!”
Let’s drive by its house multiple times,
making notes of the makes and license plates
of any cars parked on the street or in the drive.
Let’s stand outside its bedroom window,
late one night, holding up an old boom box
playing, over and over, some of the things
it’s said to us over the years.
Let’s all go home alone with a half-gallon
handle of Chevas Regal or Cutty Sark.
Let’s watch reality shows where fat cops
kick the shit out of niggers and white trash.
Let’s scream at our favorite over-paid loser teams.
Let’s grumble and guffaw and “goddamn right”
along with all the snarling, frothing
voices on the A.M. dial.
Let’s play Russian Roulette
with a pillow case full of revolvers.
What’d The Word ever do for any of us?