Archive for the Jason Ryberg Category

Jason Ryberg–Five Poems

Posted in Jason Ryberg with tags on June 9, 2022 by Scot


All Throughout the Day

Steam is rising up
from the newly laid tarmac
on HWY D, just

after a brief but
intense summer thunder-storm
this morning that came

and went before the
sun could even slip behind
a cloud, and now the

old radio is
telling us to expect more
similar type of

activity all
throughout the day, and now it’s
back to the music

with Tommy James and
the Shondells doing “Crimson
and Clover” and I

say hell yes to the
prospects of both more Tommy
James and the Shondells

in all our lives as
well as more sporadic bursts
of thunder, lightning

and rain while the sun
continues to shine, brightly,
all throughout the day.


John Brown’s Body and Fender Shop
with apologies to Gary Larson

Just a hummingbird
swarm (or whatever the hell
you want to call it)

dive-bombing the lone
feeder in the lone Bradford
pear tree, hanging right

over the brick walk-
way that leads to the front door
of John Brown’s Body

and Fender Shop, lined
on both sides with a rainbow
variety of

marigolds, planted
each Spring by his soon-
to-be-ex-wife if

he don’t straighten-up
and get his shit together
PDQ (or else).


False Prophet

I heard that he had
applied and been rejected
(multiple times ) for the

highly coveted
position of “False Prophet,”
because too many

of the events he
predicted came to be true,
but only when free

or genuinely believed
he was lying, which

always seemed to be
a 50 / 50 toss-up
as he had been

diagnosed early
as a pathological
liar and was known

amongst local law
enforcement as being a
bit of a grifter.



Least Divisible Unit

You’d think one of the
more ancient and troublesome
of the big, classic

conundrums ever
to vex humanity throughout
time would surely be

the issue of how
one gets to the heart of a

or intellectual
matter (figuratively
speaking, that is) but

without damaging
or even sacrificing
it on the alter

of inquiry like
some bloody scene from way back
in antiquity,

wherein our primal,
instinctive need to delve and
cut away in the

attempt to figure
out how all the various
parts of a thing

work together in some
semblance of harmony but
also what its true

nature is and least
divisible unit we
might reduce it to.



Good Fun

Let’s us step into
the dead-center of some old
country crossroads one

hot and starry night,
after drinking too much moon-
shine and challenge the

gods or ghosts of your
ancestors to a fight just
for something to do.

Let’s put the torch to
the master’s crops tonight and
call him out to his

front porch and dare that
old motherfucker to do
something about it.

Let’s you and me put
on our Sunday best, get some
flowers and a heart-

shaped box of candy
and go a-courtin.’ You take
Trouble and I’ll take

Bad Luck, ‘cause Bad Luck
is better than no luck and
Trouble is good fun.


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.



Thirteen Variations / Slight Returns on Dr. William’s Red Wheelbarrow (or, How the Hell Does a Japanese Fighting Kite Wind Up in The Middle of Missouri?) apologies to W.C.W. by Jason Ryberg

Posted in Jason Ryberg with tags on May 1, 2018 by Scot


So much depends upon
a red tricycle left crying in the rain
beside four grinning
garden gnomes.

So much depends upon
a red Radio Flyer wagon overflowing
with tulip bulbs and garden tools,
to which a bull-mastiff pup
has been chained all day.

So much depends upon
a red windmill, doing nothing
but lazily churning
the bright blue wind.

So much depends upon
a red, rusted-out pick-up truck stuck in the weeds
(bees in its belly, mice in the muffler,
a thick forest of sunflowers in its bed).

So much depends upon
an old, red barn, barely holding up its own weight
beneath the ever-shifting weight of the seasons.

So much depends upon
a red dirt road winding its way
through the hills and valleys of Oklahoma,
beneath a storm-grey sky.

So much depends upon
a pair of faded red Chuck Taylors
hanging from a power line,
(with a bird’s nest in the left).

So much depends upon
a red tail-light, barely visible on the road ahead
at five in the morning (don’t ask why)
on the way to Atchison, KS.

So much depends upon
a red-gold koi, circling
the stem-like leg of a Great Blue Heron
in the middle of a stream.

So much depends upon
the foot-tall, day-glo red liberty spikes
on top of the tiny punk rock girl
with the baby blue Doc Martins.

So much depends upon
childhood memories
of the giant, red tomatoes
your neighbor grew every summer
in soil sown with iron filings
from his machine shop.

So much depends upon
a Red Tailed Hawk floating
on a current of wind
in a sky the color of a sky blue workshirt
that’s been washed a hundred times.

So much depends upon
a red Japanese fighting kite,
wrecked and ruined in the rib-cage
of a lone Willow tree on a hill
in the middle of Missouri,

and no one, not a single soul around
to answer one simple
question …

Everything Gonna Be All Right (or, Trading Body Blows with the Ghost of Victor Smith) by Jason Ryberg

Posted in Jason Ryberg with tags on May 3, 2017 by Scot

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 …

AMERICA, INC. by Jason Ryberg

Posted in Jason Ryberg with tags on December 14, 2016 by Scot

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.

Ghost Out Wandering The Backroads (Or, John Brown Returns To Kansas) by Jason Ryberg

Posted in Jason Ryberg with tags on December 14, 2016 by Scot

There are plenty of paintings
and a few photographs, even,
so we know someone
fitting his description
once moved amongst us
and has allegedly been witnessed,
recently, slipping in and out of
the fitful dreams of the CEOs, holy men
and politicians of Kansas (running guerilla raids
and counting coup, no doubt).

They appear to us somehow more shifty,
nervous and disingenuous than usual
and, reportedly, state-wide sales
of expensive scotches,
designer anti-depressants
and blood-pressure medications
are through the roof.

They say he observes them often from the tree-line
behind their palatial guest houses,
from bus-stop benches down on the street
across from their office parks and complexes,
from over their shoulders in the mirrors
of exclusive country club and executive washrooms:

his eyes like signal fires on distant hilltops,
like lanterns leading us through swamps and hollers
and piney backwoods on up to Freedomland (glory be!),
like klieg lights calmly surveying and laying open
the meat-processing plants and voting stations
and payday loan offices and publicly subsidized
million-dollar mega-farms and mega-churches
of the over-worked, under-paid,
trans-fattened heart of The Heartland.

He has no visible means of transportation;
he is always just suddenly there and then
just as suddenly not there, and certainly doesn’t possess
quite the ferocious bearing and terrifying tornadic stature
transmitted to us over the years by Curry’s paintings
in the state capitol building.

Yet, there is always a quicksilver halo
of ghost fire around him,
a layer of graveyard mud on his boots
and an expertly tied noose
(with exactly thirteen knots)
hanging from his neck.

And when the time inevitably comes
to raise the question of what
it could all possibly mean,
everyone of these generous job creationists,
these steely admirals of the fleets of industry,
these selfless stewards of the souls of men,
suddenly seems to scurry away to some
dust-bowl era storm cellar
somewhere deep within themselves,

while their eyes try to focus
on some distant flittering thing
on the far, fabled horizon
of whatever’s left of the 21st century
American dream.

Listening All Alone To Deep Purple In A Pittsburg Bar (Kansas, That Is) by Jason Ryberg

Posted in Jason Ryberg with tags on July 22, 2016 by Scot

-as texted to the author (more or less) by Al Ortolani

Well, there’s the bartender, of course,
pouring me another drink
even though I’ve still got one
in front of me (half full and un-paid for),
and there’s big screen tvs to the front,
rear, left and right of me (no escape,
apparently, so I guess I better just
deal with it and have another drink)
and Stevie Nicks is silently dancing
in all her ‘80s, gypsy-black, gauzy,
gossamer glory (Lord, just send me
Stevie in my dreams and maybe
keep all mamas and babies safe
for atleast one more day) and now
the Red Hot Chili Peppers
are really funkin’ and rockin’ out
and the Dodgers and the Angels
have hit the 7th inning (at 7 to 7,
no shit, guess we’ll see who gets
lucky tonight) and the Goodyear blimp
is in retrograde as the ghost of Kurt Cobain
is coming to us live and unplugged
(did he really mean to unplug and
sign off for good when he had his
ultimate dark moment of dispair or
was there something else going on there?)
and I could use another drink about now
and the bartender has been MIA for sometime
and the conspicuous odor of pot smoke
is wafting from the men’s room (seriously,
am I the only one noticing this!?)
and there’s an old gal who looks
a lot like my mother (unnervingly so,
in fact, like separated-at-birth similar)
saying HELLO!? HELLO!? into the payphone
and now some old boy is moaning
the Medicare blues, bent over the trashcan
by the backdoor with a bloody nose,
who, it turns out is an old harp player
I used to know, as he sits down on
the bar stool next to me (vodka on the rocks)
like nothing ever happened (pretty sure
we chased a possum together down Broadway
one night in 1995 behind the Stillwell Hotel)
and I say Hey man, you’re part of my poem!
Bending his ear lower and closer to me,
he says I had a feelin.


Posted in Jason Ryberg with tags on June 4, 2010 by Scot


The weather channel is showing
highly detailed satellite imagery
of impending meteorological doom

(while various other sources are warning
of a new ice age (and a giant meteor
thrown in, to boot))

and the street corner preacher (in chorus
with his whole in-bred family and entourage)
says “GOD HATES FAGS!” (which makes me wonder
what He/She/It  must think about rogue investment bankers,
government torturers, sowers of paranoia and discord
masquerading as journalists or porn-addicted poets,
for that matter).

Even the usually reliable Magic Eight Ball
says “it doesn’t look good” and, apparently,

our current (and wildly popular (if not so
genuinely populist)) Republican vice-
presidential candidate enjoys shooting wolves
from helicopters, firing librarians for refusing
to ban “objectionable” books and believes dinosaurs
roamed the earth six thousand years ago (really,
should this person have access
to the nuclear codes?).

But the lost boys and the strippers
and the third shift factory workers and EMT’s
are finishing up their nightly routines
and are all just waiting to get off work
and head over to Cooper’s for a drink.

Thank God someone in this city
of a hundred and thirty-one homicides
(this year, and climbing)
is open at 6AM.

But what was it the old boy with the cowboy hat
and Wally Walrus moustache was saying, just then;
something about the “Philosophick Mercury” or
“Grand Quintessence” as “cosmological constant,”
or something?

We can probably assume there used to be
competing schools of thought set up
to address those and other pressing issues of the day
and that there surely must be remnants of their descendants
left in the universities and non-partisan think tanks
here in our own uncertain age.

Or, maybe, when confronted
with the various cultural/quasi-intellectual
bogeys and conundrums of the modern world
we should all just step back and calmly review
the situation and maybe think about renewing
ours vows to our estranged lover or spouse,

that He or She (or whoever in between)
of Reason and Critical Thinking,
sitting all alone at the end of the bar,
nose in a book, sipping on a soda with lime;

the one who keeps looking at you
from time to time out of the corner of their eye,
maybe even stealing a full-on glance
when they’re sure you’ve turned away.

How is it you don’t remember them
looking so damned good;
so fit, so linear and clean?

Not like the sad, flabby menagerie of crazies
and bar-whores of hysteria and misinformation
you’ve been truck-stopping  around with, lately.

How did things ever degenerate
to this sorrowful state?

How did we get conned into believing
we’re born fallen and fully deserving of a life
(and eternal afterlife) of suffering?

How do we get fooled again
and again and again into laboring
against our own best interests

and thinking that we ever had
anything to gain from killing
each other over the disputes
of kings, priests
and CEOs?