Friday, October 30, 2009


Warren Zevon and Townes Van Zandt Get Drunk in Heaven

This is where you can kick the dead dog
until it snarls itself awake,
licks its nuts, and then
heads to the creek
where the boys will be fishing
until the almost dark.
is where the whiskey's free
and the women are easy
company. The only hangover
is a canopy of tree limb
that shields you graciously
from God's wild and lonely eye.

Every day is your best lyric.
Townes sings,
If I had a nickel
I'd find a game
If I won a dollar
I'd make it rain
And if it rained an ocean
I'd drink it dry
And lay me down dissatisfied.
Life'll kill ya,
Warren says. Warren says,
I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Except here he is, and Townes too, not
like coyotes stiff in the back of
a pick-up headed for a Lubbock taxidermist
but trading shots, never worrying about
the sober life or repercussions,
the cancers, the heart attacks.
And though the sun
will eventually position itself
exact and low in the sky,
it never sets. Instead

the sun will scuff along the horizon
like the toe of a cowboy boot
or the last piece of ice in
two fingers of bourbon
or the truth in a song
and the stories the song becomes.

So the bottle's never empty,
the glass is never full,
and the songwriters sip at their days,
Townes Van Zandt saying to Warren Zevon,
"Man, this crazy guitar of mine, up here,
she ain't ever out o' tune."
The rhymes,
like the whiskey, offer themselves
graciously, asking only
for a couple of chords, a breath,
a hillside, a bit of faith.

-John Reinhard

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The Coming of Light

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.

-Mark Strand

Tuesday, October 27, 2009



A hundred leaves
litter the ground
for every kernel
their veins have
bled to fruition,
(seeds a cruel
attrition weeds
down to nearly nil)—

a condition
so akin to our
own spill of leavings,
(with all its failed
seedlings dust
among a more
fortunate flowering
few), reason may
well exist to believe
what follows
our fall
is a colorful season too...

-Allen Heinrich

Monday, October 26, 2009


It probably comes too little too late

for everyone

if it comes at all;

That fabled lightning-bolt-like moment of clarity

that suddenly, out of nowhere, opens up over you

in the middle of the haunted,

fairy tale dark forest

that life can so easily

somehow morph into.

One minute you're standing

in a grocery store looking for…

what was it you were looking for?

The next, you're in a clearing,

surrounded by what you can only assume

are a few thematic variations

of The Ghost Of Who You Could Have Been

Had You Just Paid A Little More Attention

And Followed Directions.

One of them

(strangely enough, the best dressed one

in the best physical shape and still

with the kindest expression on his face)

steps forward with one of those Blackberries

or maybe even one of those

I-phones everyone's been talking about:


here's where you

first really fucked up,

but could still have

possibly recovered.

Then here,


here, here

and here,

oh, and then here.

But, pretty much by that time

you were just making the same mistake

over and over and there was

no real hope

of getting out of

the hole."

-Jason Ryberg, 2009



Remember that breakfast one November-
Cold black grapes smelling faintly
Of the cork they were packed in,
Hard rolls with hot, white flesh,
And thick, honey sweetened chocolate?
And the parties at night; the gin and tangos?
The torn hair nets, the lost cuff links?
Where have they all gone to,
The beautiful girls, the abandoned hours?
They said we were lost, mad and immoral,
And interfered with the plans of management.
And today, millions and millions, shut alive
In the coffins of circumstance,
Beat on the buried lids,
Huddle in the cellars of ruin, and quarrel
Over their own fragmented flesh.

-Kenneth Rexroth

Friday, October 23, 2009



Of all implements, the pitchfork was the one
That came near to an imagined perfection:
When he tightened his raised hand and aimed with it,
It felt like a javelin, accurate and light.

So whether he played the warrior or the athlete
Or worked in earnest in the chaff and sweat,
He loved its grain of tapering, dark-flecked ash
Grown satiny from its own natural polish.

Riveted steel, turned timber, burnish, grain,
Smoothness, straightness, roundness, length and sheen.
Sweat-cured, sharpened, balanced, tested, fitted.
The springiness, the clip and dart of it.

And then when he thought of probes that reached the
He would see the shaft of a pitchfork sailing past
Evenly, imperturbably through space,
Its prongs starlit and absolutely soundless --

But has learned at last to follow that simple lead
Past its own aim, out to an other side
Where perfection - or nearness to it - is imagined
Not in the aiming but the opening hand.

-Seamus Heaney

Thursday, October 22, 2009


True night having finally arrived and settled in
for this leg of our long cross-country haul;
all cold, black infinitudes and Lovecraftian
expanses of time, the headlights of the truck
barely illuminating the road ahead,
no signs of civilization anywhere and I'd swear
the wind has been alternately whispering
and roaring its bleak sermon for days now.

And somehow I'm still working on
the same foot-long truck stop sub,
still nursing on the same twenty-some-odd-ounce
cup of cold truck stop mud (funny how
with the right amount of faux-dairy creamer stuff
it tastes faintly of burnt popcorn).

But at least that low-hanging cloud cover
has finally rolled on and the stars have all come out
and there's a guy on the radio now going on and on
about the various health benefits that come from
consuming coral calcium deposits ("marine grade,"
by the way) which apparently include (but are,
by no means, limited to) curing any and all forms of cancer,
living to a hundred and twenty years of age and,
most amazingly, the ability to grow a new brain.

And on that last, ringing note (and vivid mental image)
we seem to have arrived at "one of those moments, "
where, who knows, maybe the planets and the stars
are aligned just right; one of those moments
when it's perfectly appropriate and all right
to ask of the night, the stars, the spirits of your ancestors
or whoever may be sitting next to you 'what's it all about?'
As in the big 'it.' The very 'it' from which all rivers
and roads issue forth and eventually, inevitably return to
and within which all the myriad archetypes
and things are contained and are each,
in their own way, ultimately about (aren't they?).

And it feels, somehow, like we started out
on this trip weeks ago, months even,
the whole thing a grainy late, late show
starring some second-rate Hope and Crosby,
Laurel and Hardy, Mutt and Jeff,
Kerouac and Cassidy, but, probably more like
the 21st Century American answer to
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; a couple of
luckless chuckle-heads suddenly thrown
by wild circumstance on to the road
with little more than the clothes on their backs
and the coins in their pockets,
more than just a little bit out of their depth
and out of step with the various machinations
at work around them.

But, now it's starting to feel
like maybe the wind is finally settling down
(for a little while, anyway)
and the stars are burning even brighter
all around us in the cold night sky,
yes, like fireflies,
like Christmas lights.

And there, to our right,
by the side of the road, a giant cross
comes looming, more than a little ominously, into view,
a hundred feet tall (at least) and all stage-lit
like the Branson, Missouri version
of the Lord's wrathful return to earth.

And now some British-sounding news-guy
on some other (shall we say more "standardized"
and "accountable") radio program is reporting
"live, from around the world (Greenwich Mean Time),"
recapping a few of the day's major headlines-

"Astronomers say they've found
a miniature version of our own solar system
only five thousand light years away,"

"In Israel, a woman believed to be
the world's oldest person celebrated
her one hundred and twentieth
birthday, today,"

"and for the first time in living memory
snowflakes are falling
on Baghdad."

Hey, man,

did he just say


-Jason Ryberg, 2009


The Death of Head and Leg

Two girls walk beside a house whose blinds are lit
at three in the morning. They walk talking the world
of a guy they just met and how beautiful
the stars remind them of him. But they can’t pin
how stars can be a man of thirty.
They can’t hold a star and pull its shirt
over its head, drop its pants to the floor
and say good morning. And in the morning
would the star be there for bacon and eggs
or a quick shower? If it is,
what color would its toothbrush be?
And just as they think they know
how a star can be a man, they are too far
from the house to see the lights turn off.

Inside, a couple is tossing sleep
out the window and cursing. They think
the dark can hide the yelling better than silence.
But the man can’t sleep because of his leg
and how it wants to run to the couch and watch TV
and the woman can’t sleep because she knows
the leg wants other legs to be around it.
And since her legs are closed after hours,
she believes that couch is code for someone else,
someone who believes in stars and things
on TV. So she yells her hair off her head,
makes red mounds of her eyes, and grasps
his leg, the calf of it, with nails digging
for couch, until couch is out of leg
and sleep is shoved in the man. By then
it is six in the morning and the man is forced to dream

that he is far from the house and that his leg took him
to another couch to watch TV. The difference is
his dream wife has a leg that wants her
to run to the couch too. Together they watch TV
and compare legs. She even shows him
her hands. They are the kind that calm legs down.
They soften his thigh and he forgets the TV.
They pull his shirt over his head and drop
his pants to the floor and the man believes
he has special hands too. So he feels under her clothes
for the leg, to soften her thigh like she did his,
but the leg in his hands goes limp and detaches.
It bends at the knee and he pushes it back
to the stump at her hip. He pushes it harder
and wishes to leave, to go back to his wife,
but she is dreaming of a life without legs.
So he waits for her, like a star waits
for the lights to turn on.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009



What the hell is he building
In there?
He has subscriptions to those
Magazines... He never
Waves when he goes by
He's hiding something from
The rest of us... He's all
To himself... I think I know
Why... He took down the
Tire swing from the Peppertree
He has no children of his
Own you see... He has no dog
And he has no friends and
His lawn is dying... and
What about all those packages
He sends. What's he building in there?
With that hook light
On the stairs. What's he building
In there... I'll tell you one thing
He's not building a playhouse for
The children what's he building
In there?

Now what's that sound from under the door?
He's pounding nails into a
Hardwood floor... and I
Swear to god I heard someone
Moaning low... and I keep
Seeing the blue light of a
T.V. show...
He has a router
And a table saw... and you
Won't believe what Mr. Sticha saw
There's poison underneath the sink
Of course... But there's also
Enough formaldehyde to choke
A horse... What's he building
In there. What the hell is he
Building in there? I heard he
Has an ex-wife in some place
Called Mayors Income, Tennessee
And he used to have a
consulting business in Indonesia...
but what is he building in there?
What the hell is building in there?

He has no friends
But he gets a lot of mail
I'll bet he spent a little
Time in jail...
I heard he was up on the
Roof last night
Signaling with a flashlight
And what's that tune he's
Always whistling...
What's he building in there?
What's he building in there?

We have a right to know...

-Tom Waits


sometimes it seems like
the goddamn cynics
and nihilists are right,

that nothing really matters,

as in no thing, be it ideological or
conceptual, abstract or
intellectual, has any material
tangibility (figuratively speaking,
I mean),

no real meaning or applicability
to anything,

as in nothing can mean or equate
or add up to something greater
than just a lumpy sum of parts;

no doing "this, this and this"
thereby making it reasonably
safe to assume, to expect,
to predict, even, with some degree
of accuracy, some degree of
substantiation in the world.

Or, at least that's the line
of reasoning I use, occasionally,
to justify and/or excuse those days
that come along every now and then,

when you wake up around ten or eleven
and maybe it's grey and raining
and thundering out there,

or, maybe even a quaint, postcard perfect
or phone book cover photo
of a Spring day:

either way, probably best to spend
the better part of it in bed,

the shades pulled down most of the way,
some solo Monk piano on the radio,
a box fan blowing out a rough accompaniment
from the corner,

and nothing to do but drink beer
and write poems (maybe even one
about drinking beer and writing poems
in bed all day).

-Jason Ryberg, 2009