Poetry from Jason Ryberg

1) Sunday Morning, 7Am (or So)

It’s Sunday morning, 7AM (or so),
and the coffee pot is whispering its little secrets
to no one in particular 
and the sky looks like its threatening to unload.

And, from the kitchen window,
we can see a burly tomcat
playing with something it’s caught,
down in the alley, behind the hardware store—
a cockroach or mouse, maybe;
joyously swatting and tossing it about

and then, 
letting it go.

An absolution or reprieve of sorts—

Who knows?

Sometimes the world
is inexplicably alive
with such innocent, amoral
and otherwise misdirected mercies

when the Good Lord or Vishnu
or Great Earth Mother or whoever 
is momentarily distracted 
by some cosmic occurrence,
somewhere, and the focus of their energies
is suddenly shifted

from whatever the current object 
of their loving vivisection
happens to be 

(who knows; the cockroach,
the mouse, the cat, maybe you,
hell, maybe me).

But elsewhere, this morning,

we can see with the floating
magical eye of the poem,
a red-breasted robin preaching
from atop a piece of PVC pipe,

a pair of red shoes
dangling from a telephone wire,

a sky-blue tricycle
(on which so much depends)
beside four white plaster chickens,

and, Maple leaves, like propellers 
cut from brittle rice paper 
or sheaves of ancient papyrus,
spiraling down in little, meandering gyres
through the clean autumn air.

And somewhere
(the picture is not as clear here),

in a motel room out near the highway, maybe,
or, in a westbound car, let’s say,
just now whizzing by that very same motel
(bound for Gnaw Bone, IA or Talala, OK),

or, in some drafty downtown apartment
above a hardware store
(that never seems to have
what you’re looking for),
the radio is torturing some
sad and desperate chump
with love song after merciless love song.

Otherwise, not much else is happening.

2) Territory

Ah, yes, the Konza,
that wily and patient old man;
he’s crossed the fence-line again.

Another modest victory
in his on-going campaign
to reclaim the land;

slowly staking-out each
newly won inch or acre
with ragged flags

of Leadplant and
Threadleaf, Bundleflower
and Blue Verbana,

Devil’s Claw, Soapweed and 
Wooly Loco, Snakecotton, Prairieclover
and Pale Comandra.

And all the while, he distracts us
with small, swirling storms
of wind and sand. 

3) The Tide

An almost perfect stillness
but for the passing
of a lone car on the highway,

as if the sleeping city were
slowly drawing in its breath.

It takes nearly a minute
for the humming of the tires
to trail off and melt away
into the soft Kansas landscape.

Suddenly a heavy silence
rushes in from the fields
like a tide, washing away
all the scattered barks and yelps
of farm dogs and coyotes,

all the clicking, buzzing night music
of crickets and tree frogs,

all the whispery gossip
of cottonwoods and cedars.

Of course we’ll be reported as lost at sea.
Families will worry and friends will search,

but, we’ll turn up sometime tomorrow
on some farmer’s doorstep,
foolish and grinning,
asking for directions.

4) Disconnected, or 
No Longer in Service

From the front porch, on this lonely hill-top
(where the wind never really seems to be still),
looking out, one can see the canopies
of oak, elm and linden that cover,
so post-card-perfectly, the far away streets
and homes of middle-middle America,
the sprawling networks of old farm roads
that wind and weave and mesh around the city,
like stitching, securing it to the earth.
And, through the churning quicksilver haze
of time and memory, it is easy to imagine
morning and the bright, sunlit room
of someone’s thoughts, from which
one can fall so easily somehow that,
without a final word or reliable account of events, 
a more than respectable semblance of love 
is reduced to a recorded message 
repeating itself into the hot Kansas night...	

First, a Few Things 
Concerning the Poet

First, it is essential
that the poet be
a failed something else—

sculptor, guitar player, bridge builder,
astrologer, cosmetologist, mathematician, whatever—

something that sounded
like a good idea at the time.

   (NOTE: anyone convinced
   that writing poetry is a good idea
   will one day make a fine
   mathematician, literary critic
   or iron-worker, even.)

Poetry, like drag racing or black magic 
or juggling knives, for that matter,
is rarely ever a good idea.

No, in fact poetry is, to the shock and dismay 
of those who would approach it, carelessly, 
or attempt to feed it, a half-starved, voracious 
and rather gnawed-at compulsion 

somewhere between doodling In the margins 
of library books and carving designs in your arm 
with a razor.

Poetry is a cosmic, meta-psychic-al occurrence
somewhere between a fifty-gallon drum suddenly
coughing-up flames in a vacant lot, late one night,
and a Grecian urn burning with wildflowers
on an unkempt inner-city grave …

Poetry is a deep, voice-like hum,
somewhere between bee’s-wings
and whale-song, thrumming and thrumming 
at the base of the skull— 

a voice calling out its pleas and directives
from the heart of the hive and the depths of the sea,
a briny ghost’s basso profundo 
that you can never quite be sure 
whether anyone else is hearing.

In fact, poetry is the confirmed poet’s 
dirty little secret—
like HAM radio operating, 
fantasy baseball league,
a phone-sex gig,
or, a good, solid smack addiction—

something the true devotee
(meaning here: one who has been turned)
wisely keeps hidden away (these days, especially),
on some grubby, candle-lit alter, let’s say, 
at the back of a closet, 
or in the corner of the basement
or, better yet, locked in an old bomb-shelter
out in the backyard.

And, while not widely known,
the poet is, at the cellular level, a type 
of rogue alchemist or depraved horticulturalist
trying tirelessly, against all common wisdom
and better judgment, to breed
     monkeys with footballs,
     dragons with freight trains,
     flame jobs with blowjobs,
     newspaper tigers with tinfoil unicorns,
     white roses with rusty railroad spikes,
     donkeys with onions …

knowing full well that
99 times out of 100
he’ll wind up holding an onion 
with big ears …

but still, none the less,
he or she must burn 
the sacred, Mexican 
Votive Candle of Prosperity 
to the hope for that one piece of ass
that wrings tears from their eyes …

water from dirt, 
fire from the sky,
gold from lead,
chicken salad from chicken shit,
life from a furious, 
life-long struggle with life.

Jason Ryberg is the author of eighteen 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 collection 
of poems is The Great American Pyramid Scheme 
(co-authored with W.E. Leathem, Tim Tarkelly and 
Mack Thorn, OAC Books, 2022). He lives part-time 
in Kansas City, MO 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. 

One thought on “Poetry from Jason Ryberg

  1. To Jason, your description of the malady of poetry writing is quite hilarious–and spot on. Your nature descriptions and weed litany take you away from your usual images and introduce something more “organic.” Good work and lively.

Comments are closed.