Poetry from J. Ryberg

1) Everything Gonna Be All Right

(or, Trading Body Blows with

the Ghost of Victor Smith)

 

 

The night was thick, black and nasty

and my mattress was a raft drifting down

a mighty Mississippi of memory,

a Viking longboat in which my broken

warrior-poet’s form had been placed

and sent downstream through the silver-grey mists

of eternity and on to the far bright shores of my

forefathers and their fathers before them,

only to be turned away from those fearsome

gates for being insufficiently deceased.

 

And, lately, it seems like I’ve been waking up

in the middle of varying stages of dream-state

at all my former places of residence, feeling around

the bed for some imaginary former spouse

or significant other, freaking out about

being late to some former place of employment

and whatever it is I’m gonna say (this time?)

to placate whichever former employer.

I can’t help but believe if things continue

at this rate, eventually, I’ll bolt awake thinking

I’m late for my first day of kindergarten (though,

hopefully my mother will also be on hand to say,

It’s OK, little man. It’s only Saturday. Go out and play).

And then there’s that recurring one where,

in what some new age, metaphysical,

guided meditation counselor type might

call a deep subterranean cave of me,

some here-to-fore unknown (or merely suspected)

part of me suddenly cracks and snaps off

like a massive icicle or stalactite, morphing

on its way down into another more fully actualized me,

a new and improved me, you could say,

and hits the ground running like Jesse Owens

at the ’36 Olympics.

 

And let’s just say, for the sake of the poem

(and your, most likely, all-too-brief relationship with it),

that this new and improved me is actually you

and it’s not a slimy or treacherous cave floor

that your feet have found but a cool, rain-slicked street

late at night in some industrial part of town

you don’t recognize.

 

And just over there to the right,

maybe fifty, sixty feet away at most,

there’s a freight train blowing out

its big, brassy basso profundo

as it slows down to take the curve

and it’s not even an issue of nerve

or wanting it bad enough ‘cause you know

you can make it this time, man,

and you don’t even have a suitcase

or bag or nothing,

 

but that shit don’t even matter ‘cause everything’s

gonna be different from here on out if you can

just catch that train, man, everything gonna be just fine

if you can just keep runnin’ and sayin’ it

and sayin’ it and sayin’ it:

 

everything gonna be alright,

everything gonna be alright,

everything gonna be alright,

everything…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) The Problem of Desire (Sleight Redux)

 

 

(Buddhist maxims aside), that is of wanting something bad

enough (maybe even above all else in life), say to the point

of convincing yourself over a long enough period of time

that this thing you desire is actually a necessity for life (or

better living, at least) and, who knows, it may well be but

still, the fact is that, more often than not, it seems to be

compounded, inversely, almost exponentially, even, by the

inability (for whatever reasons) to obtain or attract that

very thing you so desperately, tragi-comically, (aint-it-a-

goddamn-cryin’-shame-fully) burn for, leaving you, for the

most part, out in the cold, as they say, looking in on life’s

great feast (Joyce, maybe? or Cab Calloway?), all dry-

mouthed, heart pounding and short of breath, a near-

constant, agitated state of desperate neediness mixed with

some sort of sub-Shakespearean grade of thwarted

ambition and good, old unrequited lust (who knows, maybe

even love). Chances are you’ll drink some out there (most

likely, a little more than you would otherwise), probably

even smoke a little weed and snort up a little coke (both

likewise: see above). Or you might take up hunting or civil

war re-enacting or throw yourself, completely, into one or

more professional sports teams (of course, only in the

passive / aggressive observer capacity), comic book or

record collecting, pornography and / or video games,

sacrifice yourself (headfirst) to some wacky bronze (or new-)

age religion, submerge and re-submerge yourself in book

after book after book about … anything, everything, nothing.

Who knows, you might even try writing poetry.

 

 

3) Last Night at 4003 Wyoming

 

 

May 1st, 12:20 AM

and here I am kicking back

on this rickety wooden chair

 

like some kind of lazy, post-post-modern

beatnik cowhand after a long day

of riding the range (or whatever it was

they did in those days) but now

 

just sort of zenning-out on the back stairs

of a fourth-floor, attic apartment

beneath a black sky all lit up with stars,

 

sixty some-odd degrees out here

with the odd car vroom-vroom-vrooming by

down on the street,

 

a respectable breeze keeping things

moving about, nicely, and a train

moaning out it’s woeful long-gone

-lonesomeness somewhere southwest of here,

 

Nina Simone doing Do I Move You?

on the radio (perched precariously

in the kitchen window),

another beer officially down

(with four more to go),

 

a half-pint of apricot brandy

(from Maraska, Croatia, by the way

and how it got here, I’ll never know),

 

a book of classical Chinese poetry

(translated by the criminally underrated

and, seemingly, lost and forgotten

Kenneth Rexroth),

 

everything boxed up and ready

to load in the morning

 

and always that (hopefully

more than a fool’s) hope

that things will go

 

a little differently

 

from now on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Lone Wolves, Black Sheep

and Red-Headed Step-Children

 

 

Somewhere,

an empty Mountain Dew bottle

sitting on a limestone fence post

suddenly begins to wheeze and moan

in sweet country harmony

with the wind’s sad cowboy song.

 

Somewhere,

a stiff suburban mummy

stares blankly into his

2,751st consecutive hour

of television;

 

no one has come calling in years,

no one has noticed the slight,

sickly sweet odor of wasted irony.

 

Somewhere, the placid dreams

of a dethroned beauty queen

are stirred by the thought of stars

that died a million years ago

whose light is just now reaching us.

 

And just before dawn,

we’ll all be drawn up from

the fathomless well of sleep

to come face to face

with the mongrel faces

of the real We,

 

the prodigal,

near-primordial hybrid

of the lone wolf,

the black sheep

and the red-headed

stepchild

 

of which

so many,

half-jokingly,

half-nervously speak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) The Gnome in the Corner (or,

Pulling Weeds in the Garden

of Earthly Delights) (Sleight Redux)

 

 

Here, inside the wire-mesh margins of the lush, over-

flowing Garden of Earthly Delights, one has to wonder,

sometimes, whether there can possibly be a more

maddeningly torturous plight (albeit, of the more

gardenly varietal type) than finding yourself in over

your head in some little social terrarium full of burstingly

ripe nymphs and naiads, who, no matter what you say or

do, cannot hear or see or, in some other way, get a feel

for you, or, those very same nymphs and naiads very

obviously in the company of various garden variety sorts

of newly-moneyed new world orderlies and alpha white

knights and future provider-types that, in every conceiv-

able way, appear to be the very antithesis of you. And

you know exactly what they’ll all be doing later don’t

you, you silly, little garden gnome, you (that thing that

sets you to thinking and drinking too much until you

swear you’re gonna crack in two) when they’ve all finally

paired (and maybe even tripled-) up and gone home and

there’s just the moon, the garden and you? And the only

thing that could possibly be even less relevant than the

noxious weeds of a garden gnome’s quasi-poetic self pity

(that is, to this new world order) is the strange, genuine

wild flame of a flower sprouting from a crack in the head

of that very gnome, sitting all alone in the corner.