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Jason Ryberg

Weathervane Creaking in a Sad, Grey Wind (or, a Secret History of the Nighttime World)

What Else To Do

Midnight on the Eighteenth Hole at the Club Purgatorio

Dead Man Watching Soap Operas

Broken-Down Truck

Weathervane Creaking in a Sad, Grey Wind  (or, a Secret History of the Nighttime World)

There’s a weathervane creaking
in a sad, grey wind.

Buzzards spiraling on an invisible whirlpool
of Brownian motion, winding deeper and deeper 
down to the bottom of night’s mysterious inland sea.

A bed-side radio channeling old transmissions
of The Shadow, The Lone Ranger
and Little Orphan Annie,
pulling street sweepers, star quarter-backs
and bank presidents alike
back into the shallow end of sleep.

A man stepping out of the side door of his life
and into a waiting pick-up truck,
then down to the corner convenience store
for a liter of vodka and a carton of cigarettes,
(never to return).

A mysterious strain of fortune cookies
giving the fragmented (but true), play-by-play account 
of what really went down at Golgotha, Wounded Knee,
Nan King, Roanoke, Roswell, Ferguson.

A bald eagle perched on a stop light
at the corner of 39th and Bell,
KC/MO, 64111, 9:43 pm, Tuesday.

A pocket watch ticking on the end of a chain,
hanging from the rear-view mirror 
of a ‘62 purple Impala (suicide doors, 
peek-a-boo lights, Buddha on the dash-board).

A hobo sleeping in a rowboat
in a dried-up creek bed 
beneath the white rose
of a cemetery moon.

A rusty railroad spike driven through 
a heart-shaped box of candy, left on the front porch
of one who has not been true (you know what you did).

Two freight trains passing in a foggy train yard, 
like ships in a harbor, then back out 
onto the high seas of the lower Midwest. 

A street corner crazy 
giving God and the Devil, both,
a little dose of the old what for.

An unknown number of 
feral cats revving themselves up
to either fight or fuck.

And all the while,
a lone, melancholy moon-moth of a thought 
flutters and bounces around inside 
the empty Victorian opera house 
of some old man’s skull, 
settles for a moment, 
then goes back 
to its manic gypsy dance  
before he can catch it.

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What Else To Do

with deepest apologies to the ghosts of Li Po, Tu Fu
and Su Tung-po

Night, and the first few tentative drops
of a much-needed and long-prayed-for
summer rain going plip, plip, plip
down through the trees’ many 
cross-hatched layers of branches and leaves
to the summer-hot sidewalk below,

the trees like tattered beach umbrellas
sprouting, here and there, along the banks 
of this lazy river of newly-laid tarmac,

a shy ghost in the attic window across the street,
tiny voices in the wind and grass
whispering choruses of praise (each to each) 
to the Grand Schemata of Peoples / Places / Things, 
the micro-cosmic minutia of it all and all other 
various originators of little and large moments
of deep enlightenment, in between.

And here I am (again, it seems),
legs in faux lotus position, at the epicenter 
of who knows how many known,
unknown and very possibly unknowable 
spheres and ellipses of influence.

What else to do, then,
but raise my pint bottle up to the grinning, 
blue Buddha moon to catch a view of him 
through the brandy’s amber luminescence 
and the streaming, CinemaScopic projection 
of clouds against the sky, and salute 
his blissed-out, other-worldly magnificence?

My skeleton is an aching 
abstract construct.

My heart is an old, 
abandoned country church. 

My mind is a flickering street light
at the heart of a feathery flurry 
of poems that may never be finished.

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Midnight on the Eighteenth Hole at the Club Purgatorio

have finally reached 
the swampy inland sea of 
late June where a newly-minted 
silver-dollar moon has illuminated all the 
plumes and scattered wings and wind-blown 
drapes of cloud that have accumulated on the ceiling of the 
Royal Blue dome of heaven, drawing all their static and coin to 
the surface from the deep wells of their dark and turbulent hearts.

And all the trilling, tremoloing tree frogs and basso-belching bull
frogs are out cutting heads in full force, tonight, volleying 
their tribal haka and hoodoo tunes, back and forth,  
across this swollen, marshy pond, from which 
the giant, cyclopean over-lord of some 
alternate, inversely mirrored 
underworld peers out 
with a single bright 

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Dead Man Watching Soap Operas

The irony wasn’t so much
that a mummified corpse
was found reclining in a Lazy-Boy
in front of a television
with a soap opera playing
(one can imagine Days of Our Lives
or As the World Turns, maybe,
or even one of those spicy,
Telemundo telenovellas),
in an apartment building with
hundreds of other tenants,
coming and going all the time,
day and night, or that it actually
takes quite a bit of time and the right
environmental / atmospheric conditions
for a corpse to mummify (as opposed
to merely rot and liquefy) or that
the rent and utilities had apparently
continued to be paid, automatically,
from a bank account for years
and years, or that the junk mail,
at least, must have continued,
reliably, to pile up somewhere,
or that no one had apparently
come calling for any reason
in all that time (or if they did,
thought nothing of the television
being on at all hours, non-stop,
day and night) or what (if anything)
this whole thing says about us as a species …

but wait … where was I going with this?

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Broken-Down Truck Stuck in the Weeds

                                     Got no spare, got no jack, you don’t give a shit
                                                      you aint never goin’ back.
                                                                                                    -Tom Waits
you feel like you’ve thrown a rod,

like all four tires have gradually gone flat,

like your body is riddled with rust and buckshot,

like there’s a beehive in your glove-box
and a family of mice living in your guts
and you’re OK with that,

like you’re nothing more than
the quasi-poetic cliché of a broken-down truck
stuck in the weeds, by the side of a road
hardly anybody seems to use anymore,

a broken-down truck
abandoned right where it died,
who knows how many years ago,
by someone who finally just said fuck it,
lit a cigarette and walked away
into the vast and starry planetarium
of just another American night,
never to been seen around these parts again.

Hell no.

Not if they could help it.

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Jason Ryberg is the author of twelve 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 both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community. He lives part-time in Kansas City, with a rooster named Little Red and a billy goat 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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