Five poems by Jason Ryberg


for Tom Wayne

Hello, you’ve reached the homeland offices of America, Inc.
and its various affiliated client states.

If this is an emergency, hang up and dial 9 / 11
and a response team or drone squadron will be sent
to your GPS location, immediately.

All of our operatives are currently busy assessing other
consumers, but your call is important to us and vital to our
national security, so please stay on the line.

If you think you know your political party’s direct
intentions, please state them now, otherwise,
you may choose from the following menu:

for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, press 1,
for Truth, Justice and the American Way, press 2,
for God, Guns, Guts or Glory, press 3,
for Art vs Obscenity, press 4,
for Honor and Duty, press 5,
for Freedom and Responsibility, press 6,
for Equality Before The Law, press 7,
for Plausible Deniability, press 8,
to report suspected dissidents, drug users
or other enemies of the Homeland, press 9,
to speak to an operative, press 0, or just stay on the line.

This call is being monitored for quality assurance
as well as for your own safety and protection.

Thank you, and God bless the Homeland.

Big Balls and All

Some days even the dirty backsides
of old buildings have a sort of disheveled
and crumbling beauty to them
like neatly stacked heaps of scrap
with sagging fire escapes and cracked,
wire-mesh windows bursting forth
with clots of bird’s nests, here and there:
a small, man-made mountain range
piled against a sweeping backdrop
of clouds like drifting glacial masses
and the sky all atomic swimming pool blue.
And here, grazing in the foreground
on the south side of Larry’s Auto Supply,
looking like it could have been painted yesterday,
the bull of an old Bull Durham Tobacco sign
(big balls and all), recently uncovered, I’m told
by some old boy in bib over-alls and muddy boots
(with the steel toes showing through),
when the building next to it got hit by lightning
last month and burned down. Other than that,
he says, been a pretty quiet summer.


Bloodhound with the Broke-Dick Blues

As in it don’t work so good no more.

As in it could clearly be a metaphor
    for any number of vital physical or even
    meta-physical components.

As in maybe we are and maybe we aren’t really
    talking about a bloodhound, here, right?

As in a man sometimes just misses doing the things
    he can’t do as well as he used to like some kind of
    goddamn phantom limb syndrome.

As in sometimes all that excess anima just builds and
    builds until it can’t hold to the center, or the center,
    itself, suddenly just cannot maintain its structural

As in sometimes when the stars are properly aligned
    or the moon is just right and the jar of moonshine
    you been nipping on all night is starting to talk
    to you, you just can’t keep it under wraps any longer.

As in that moon and those stars and that hooch are
    clearly fucking with you, boy, challenging you, in fact,
    flat-out double-dog daring you to free the dragon
    from the root-cellar, let the monkeys out of the attic
and shake the fireflys from your hair.

As in you have to put the call out right now to all the   
     freight trains and coyotes in your immediate vicinity  
     or something’s gonna give, something gonna blow,
     something gonna burn the goddamn saw-mill down.

As in this just might be the night to finally call both
    God and the Devil out to their respective front
    porches and find out once and for all why both those
    mendacious sons-o-bitches have restraining orders
    placed against you.

As in it might be time to do some truth-tellin, some
    eye-witnessing, some sanctifying, some hard core   
    preachin’ and prophesying.

As in this deep-down ache needs to be acknowledged   
     and validated, this sorrowful soul exonerated,
     purged and redeemed by a little one-on-one,
     call and response session with the universe.

As in someone on the other end needs to pick-up,
     right now!

As in this just might finally be the night
    to flap these goddamned floppity bloodhound ears
    and fly, fly away, motherfuckers,
    fly, fly away …


 What Is It, This Time?

What is it, this time?

It’s a set of elevator doors,
endlessly and randomly opening and closing
on all our various levels of perception /
conciousness / awareness / etc.

It’s a slippery gateway drug
down a long helical flight
of ever-expanding co-dependencies.

It’s an attic window lit with a mysterious glow
in a house where no one has lived for years
(where many a secret passageway
is rumored to silently serpentine).

What is it, this time!?

It’s a hairpin turn in an already labyrinthine path
through the Garden of Earthly Delights.

It’s an epic poem
folded into a leaky haiku of a boat
then set afloat on a lazy, meandering meme-stream
that runs (mostly unnoticed) through all our lives.

It’s a deep, drunken mid-day nap,
ended suddenly by a dream
of wind and thunder
and a violent knocking
at the back door to which you stumble
clumsily and frantically only to find
no one there.

What is it, this time!!?

It’s a midnight rendezvous
with Fate, Kharma, Kismet and Assoc’s.

It’s a June Bug struggling
on the floor of a bath tub
in an abandoned motel
by the side of a road you really,
really don’t want to
go down.

It’s a long, deep sigh let loose
like the last leaf of a dead tree
on to the frozen surface of a kiddie pool.

It’s a rotting tree limb finally cracking
and falling from the accumulated weight
and misery of an ancient hangman’s noose
in a forest of tall, creaking skeletons
and perpetual fog
in which too many people
have been hung.

What is it, this time!!!?

It’s the lone gypsy prince of coyotes
calling up the spirits of his dead ancestors
for one last suicidal reunion tour
before the Big Bad Ragnorak*
of so many late-night campfire tales
inevitably comes rumbling, tumbling down.

It’s a train broke down in a tunnel
with no light at the end.

What is it, this time!!!!?

Let me tell you what it is, cha-cha,
on the house and country simple,
so listen up and get it straight.

It’s a priest crying with laughter
at a joke his friend the rabbi has told him
about a priest, a rabbi and a donkey
who walk into a Bar Mitzvah.

That’s what it is.



You Are Here: A Meditation On Phenomenology and Spiritualism (With a Side of Jalepenos and Mezcal)

for Michael Morales

                       I’m not so much
            a full-on, absolute denier,
                                             but really
                                more of what you might call a
                                                                         naturalist /
                      soft-hearted atheist /
             hard-nosed agnostic (with gnostically
                                                          paganish proclivities
                                     and a soft spot
             for the weird, fanciful and mysterious)
                           when it comes to matters concerning
        supernatural phenomena / spirit worlds /
                                                  higher powers / etc., etc.,
                                      but if I were more
                     hard-wired that way (if not exactly
        a full-on true believer)
                                             and if my ratio
                              of wiring to whatever quantifiable level
          of good old fashioned
                                            common credulity
                           were to extend to the idea of actually
      communing with and / or summoning
                said supernatural phenomena /
                                                                           spirit worlds /
                       higher powers / etc., etc., then I’d have to say
        that two men of (otherwise)
                                                          sound mind
                            sitting across a table from one another
        (mano y mano, as if locked in a fierce war of wills
              on the psychic plain),
consuming raw slices
                                        of jalapenos and
                                    washing them down with shots of
                   mezcal (con gusano, by the way,
           if that makes any difference, though I don’t
                                    know why it would) would
  probably be as effective a deus-ex-machina
                                                                                  as any
for calling down the weird lightning
          of mystic visions
                                           and prophetic dreams
                       and very possibly setting the cosmic        
            revolving door (that is rumored to exist),
                            between this world and who knows
       how many others,
                                             to spinning like
                                                        a roulette wheel on which
           the little black ball of the mind
                                                                    (the black pearl
                             of all potential and / or accumulated
      human knowledge and wisdom)
              must eventually,
                                            inevitably come to a rest


                                                        (if but for
                                                                           the moment).


Jason Ryberg is the author of twelve books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collections of poems are Zeus-X-Mechanica (Spartan Press, 2017) and A Secret History of the Nighttime World (39 West Press, 2017). He lives part-time in Kansas City with a rooster named Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters.

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