Archive for KC Throwdown Poetry

Fool or martyr… by John E. Epic

Posted in John E. Epic with tags on May 9, 2017 by Scot

Father or mother,
Brother or sister,
You or me,
All of humanity,
Can paint such beauty,
With strokes of the paintbrush,
And such murder,
With the pull of the trigger.
The contradiction
Lies within the confliction
Between these two extremes,
As you or me
Can be
Slave or master,
Creator or destroyer,
Fool or martyr,
All based upon
Of how we perceive This contradiction
Between the two extremes.
You and me,
Not in the middle,
But relate
To one of these extremes,
Thinking black & white,
That delight
Will lead to either heaven
Or hell,
That lack of sight
Is good or bad,
And the middle is forgotten,
And those that do wrong
Are not all rotten,
And those whom do good
Are not all given sainthood;
That sometimes martyrs are fools
And sometimes fate can be so cruel
Because this confliction between two extremes—the unobtainable intrinsic purities—
Does not exist
So, why should we persist
To expect That you or I
should pretend to define
ourselves and others
with terms so black & white,
such as wrong or right,
when we are human beings
than live someplace between those two extremes?…

Poem by Victor Clevenger

Posted in Victor Clevenger with tags on May 9, 2017 by Scot

for nadia wolnisty

i assume that it is hard for people like us to keep
secrets from the coroner when our body is up on
the slab & our blood is no longer imprisoned
death & coffee are only as dark as you wish them to be
human brains confuse me a switchblade
penetrates & i’m not sure i even mind i once
wrote that i felt like a drunk hummingbird you
once wrote that you felt like a firefly leaking light
it’s 5:06 pm as i sit here writing this raindrops
fall down the window pane & two black birds sit on
the power lines outside clock hands chase the
ghost of a second ago & with a finger in the
hornets’ nest we are all eventually bound to have
something wet on the laces of our souls

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 …

Spirit Lodge, Saturday Night by Kristofer Collins

Posted in Kristofer Collins with tags on May 3, 2017 by Scot


When in doubt return to what you know best
the gorgeous dark eight steps down
and the violent gaze of an archangel

this warm lacuna dim with blurry voices
and the boys in the back baking up pizzas
flour dandering their beautiful beards

the corner vending machine advertising smoke and coke
and the cool contours of a cherry red chopper
announce themselves like the last band to ever play The Decade

like the advent of winter’s first freeze
the streets of Lawrenceville are glazed sweet with the stuff
and old Allegheny Cemetery keeps her secrets stone-still

under the sagging cloth of early January
you say you could drink the bottom out of this town
and still have room for one swallow more

more of this black beer beading the glowing bud of your lips
more of this swirling organ aching as a broken femur
more of this dance floor dotted and luminous as a million freshly-minted pennies

the Spirit Lodge on a spectrally quiet Saturday night grants shelter
to all the spooky shit that goes bump in our brains
holds its arms wide in welcome to the demons of our damned foolish decisions

we share so much and say so little
sequestered here the new year creeping across Butler Street
calling our names and pointing to the clock.


Kristofer Collins lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife and their stupid cats.

The Day is a Song by William Taylor Jr.

Posted in William Taylor Jr. with tags on May 2, 2017 by Scot


The day is a song Leonard Cohen
didn’t have the chance to finish

and I’m caught inside it
like a wounded thing

and sometimes my poems leave me
like a woman
or the hours in a day
or a last breath at the end of things

and I’m left with this ghost of a life
and still this hunger for beauty
in whatever form it can still afford

outside there’s the rain
and the broken people beneath

a pretty uselessness that pulls the heart

and sometimes it seems
the best plan is to be forgotten
just as soon as you can manage

yet there’s a music to it all
that’s kept me going
so far

and when I finish this beer
I’ll go outside and find some alley
I’ve never seen

I’ll turn the corner and take
whatever’s there.

A Six Pack of Poems by Jake St. John

Posted in Jake St. John with tags on May 2, 2017 by Scot

I Talked To The Moon
for Jack Micheline

I’m talking to the moon
tonight for you, Jack
I moved my feet
and made it to California
a long way from home
and I talked to the moon
in Asheville
and I talked to the moon
in Nashville
I talked to the moon
in New Orleans
where the waters rose
above the doors
but the bars did not close
I talked to the moon
in Texas
in wide open spaces
where poems rode
like outlaws
through the streets
and the moon talked to me
as it shined in the sky
and reflected like
the white line of the highway
my insides spilled
on the streets
of Broadway in San Francisco
my heart thumping
in Chinatown
I talked to the moon
and rambled my dreams
and my nightmares
and the moon talked to me, Jack
the moon talked to me



Jewett City Gangster

He walks down
Main St
in a black
pinstriped suit
the kind Dillinger
might have worn
the night he was
gunned down
but it now
appears after years
of brawls and bad luck
closer to rags
than mafia wear
he limps through town
from the wound
left by the bullet
that found his leg
one night years ago
at the old hotel
down by the tracks
his drunken stubble
is what’s left
of a three day binge
he pauses briefly
in a barroom doorway
swigs a pint
pulled from his pocket
he squints into the sun
scanning the sidewalk
always on the lookout
for the Lady in Red



Upon A Hangover
for Everette Maddox

One night
came to
visit me
he drank
all my whiskey
and told me
the universe
is an empty bottle




the clouds attack
the sky
like a pack
of wild dogs
ripping and tearing
at the sun
as if it were
the last chunk
of meat
for miles around
tossing bits
and pieces
of sunshine
around the yard
that I’m laying in
on my back
knocked out
by a work week
that connected
to my chin
like a right hook
from the heavyweight



for Li Po

On this boat
the sun set
on my youth
ten thousand
shine like stars
in my heart
drunken moon
I love your smile
take me away
to lonely mountain
to cry in the arms
of trees
but here
on this river
the water kisses
and seems to whisper


Nowhere Blues

I dream
of a field

in a small
lost corner
of life

the sky
pouring out
infinite, blue

barely a cloud

the sun, soft
barely a sound

a low buzzing
in the emptiness

nerve endings
in the breeze


Jake St. John writes out of New London CT, where he roams his neighborhood streets with wild coyotes.

Three Poems by Bill Gainer

Posted in Bill Gainer with tags on May 2, 2017 by Scot

A Broken Window, a Cheap Hotel, a Stranger

The manager will want to know
how it happened –
I’ll tell the truth –
we lied to each other
and believed it.

A cheap hotel room
one glass to split
the bourbon
a cigarette
an empty beer bottle
to drop the butt
too much smoke
and a window
painted shut.

She’ll think
I can love you
and you’ll say
come here baby
we’ll worry about that later.
Right now,
just keep me warm.
The blankets
are thin.

From a Bar in Kansas City

I’m in a bar
in Kansas City
having a burger
a drink.
It’s cold here
18 degrees outside.

I’m reading poems
across town
a little later.

Just wanted
you to know
no matter how far
or cold
it gets
you’ll be
keeping me

Missing you
lots –
from a Bar
in Kansas City …



An Evening’s Intrusion

On the porch
wishing a cigarette
the first sip of bourbon
he looks few minutes
With the second
at peace.

The neighbor lady
widowed a decade
from her porch
he waves back.

The street lights
hide the sky
as they stagger
to life.
One by one
the stars go out.

Hollow Point by Shawn Pavey

Posted in Shawn Pavey with tags on May 2, 2017 by Scot

Because bullets don’t kill well enough
manufacturers hollow them
to blossom in penetrated flesh
even though last night
10 police officers and two civilians
were shot in Dallas
where five officers died
and the day before, two black men
were shot to death by police officers
on video live-streamed to everyone
even though 100 people in Orlando
were shot while dancing last month
and poor little Tamir Rice
and Trayvon Martin
and Michael Brown
and all the names and all the names
and all the names this poem could be filled with
from Sandy Hook San Bernardino Charleston
Littleton Columbine Ft. Hood
names of innocents
and names of police officers
whose places at dinner tables across America
are empty and empty rooms of soldiers
killed so far from home
and empty beds in Pakistan Afghanistan Syria Iraq
all these names a hollow poem
its endless reams of pages on pages
written in blood that never dries
and is never enough to fill
all the hollow points
hollowing bleeding bodies
these hallowed bodies of the dead


A version of the attached poem first appeared last year in Prompts: A Spontaneous Anthology by West 39 Press.

“To Chicago, or Heaven?” by Damian Rucci

Posted in Damian Rucci with tags on April 28, 2017 by Scot

On the corner of West 39th and Bell,
below the amber street light by the bookstore
I see you, Victor Smith,
reading beneath the moon.
We walk down Roanoke road
as you read me your poems—
I’ve never heard your voice but tonight
it is made of silk and bourbon.
Victor Smith, why have you come back here?
Why are you a vision in this late night stupor?
Where does the Midwest wind blow?
To Chicago
or to heaven?
How many street poets
know the devil by name?
I know, you’ve never claimed to be a teacher,
but tonight your words are gospel.
Victor, can dog-faced saints know serenity?
How many junkies have sold their last stanza
for a glimpse at the sun?
How many vagabonds have hopped trains
through cowtowns and became preachers
under their bridges?
How many cold lonely nights make a prophet?
Why do they always die alone?


Damian Rucci is a friendly neighborhood degenerate who sells books on street corners

PAPERWEIGHT by Rebecca Weber

Posted in Rebecca Weber with tags on April 28, 2017 by Scot


In the gutter
there is a paperweight.
On the side of the road,
a chandelier

I find myself in
but never a future

Today I’m not sure
if I’m the bullet or the brain
which side of the gun I’m on-

I’m almost certain I’ll feel better when it’s over
but it’s been over for longer than I’d care to admit.

Empathy is a curse,
an expensive waste
of garbage art.


Find Rebecca behind a Jersey Shore dumpster for more information and a tarot reading.