Friday, April 30, 2010


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, 2010


Bucolics [LIX]

when I see the shadow of the hawk
but not the hawk itself do you know
what it feels like Boss a stone a stone
set on my chest it weighs me down
it's stronger than the horse's strain
against the plowlines Boss it's like
the river after rain I can't
hold back the pull the pull that makes
me like its heft I even like
the shadow's tiny yoke O Boss
I feel its curve around my neck
I see a flap of wings so black
it binds me to the furrows Boss
a shadow smarter than the sting
of a switch though it is lighter than
a feather though it is thinner than
a leaf that shadow stone is one
of many wonders Boss for all
the world it makes me think of you
you heavy thing you never move

-Maurice Manning

Thursday, April 29, 2010




We like to think
that the mind
controls the body.

We send the body on a mission.

We don’t feel the body,
but we receive conflicting reports.

The body is catching flak
or flies.

The body is sprouting grapefruit.

The body is under-
performing in heavy


Reception is spotty.

Someone “just like me”
is born
in the future
and I don’t feel a thing?

Like only goes so far.

-Rae Armantrout

Thursday, April 22, 2010



Like the life of the mind,
beer pushes suds.
It spins a halo—so happy to see us—
and begins its frothy ascension
of luxury cream,
Venus lifting the foam mattress.
And then, like a little Niagara,
beer comes to a decision—
you can’t say you weren’t warned—
and overwhelms the glass.
Frothy eel pit,
ancestral tonic.
Mopping the foam from the table:
it’s like wiping spray from a trough
while panning for gold.
Or sopping up, with a cocktail napkin,
an evaporating mermaid.
And then, returning to the glass,
we lift a torch doused in the surf of time.
This is our brew against subtlety.
Even its fluff thickens eyelids,
puts us on a low, low setting,
and hauls the perfumed barge
of sleep in its wake.
Then, in a flourish,
beer signs its name with the legend:
You there,
you with your throat in a lather,
I am dread’s quencher,
anxiety’s antidote,
guilt’s blotter.
You. You’ve had enough
existence for one day.

-Lee Upton

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


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


To Various Persons Talked To All At Once
You have helped hold me together.
I'd like you to be still.
Stop talking or doing anything else for a minute.
No. Please. For three minutes, maybe five minutes.
Tell me which walk to take over the hill.
Is there a bridge there? Will I want company?
Tell me about the old people who built the bridge.
What is "the Japanese economy"?
Where did you hide the doctor's bills?
How much I admire you!
Can you help me to take this off?
May I help you to take that off?
Are you finished with this item?
Who is the car salesman?
The canopy we had made for the dog.
I need some endless embracing.
The ocean's not really very far.
Did you come west in this weather?
I've been sitting at home with my shoes off.
You're wearing a cross!
That bench, look! Under it are some puppies!
Could I have just one little shot of Scotch?
I suppose I wanted to impress you.
It's snowing.
The Revlon Man has come from across the sea.
This racket is annoying.
We didn't want the baby to come here because of the hawk.
What are you reading?
In what style would you like the humidity to explain?
I care, but not much. You can smoke a cigar.
Genuineness isn't a word I'd ever use.
Say, what a short skirt! Do you have a camera?
The moon is a shellfish.
I can't talk to most people. They eat me alive.
Who are you, anyway?
I want to look at you all day long, because you are mine.
Might you crave a little visit to the Pizza Hut?
Thank you for telling me your sign.
I'm filled with joy by this sun!
The turtle is advancing but the lobster stays behind. Silence has won the game!
Well, just damn you and the thermometer!
I don't want to ask the doctor.
I didn't know what you meant when you said that to me.
It's getting cold, but I am feeling awfully lazy.
If you want to we can go over there
Where there's a little more light.

-Kenneth Koch

Monday, April 19, 2010


Nights on Planet Earth

Heaven was originally precisely that: the starry sky, dating back to the earliest Egyptian texts, which include magic spells that enable the soul to be sewn in the body of the great mother, Nut, literally "night," like the seed of a plant, which is also a jewel and a star. The Greek Elysian fields derive from the same celestial topography: the Egyptian "Field of Rushes," the eastern stars at dawn where the soul goes to be purified. That there is another, mirror world, a world of light, and that this world is simply the sky—and a step further, the breath of the sky, the weather, the very air—is a formative belief of great antiquity that has continued to the present day with the godhead becoming brightness itself: dios/theos (Greek); deus/divine/diana (Latin); devas (Sanskrit); daha (Arabic); day (English).

—Susan Brind Morrow, Wolves and Honey


Gravel paths on hillsides amid moon-drawn vineyards,
click of pearls upon a polished nightstand
soft as rainwater, self-minded stars, oboe music
distant as the grinding of icebergs against the hull
of the self and the soul in the darkness
chanting to the ecstatic chance of existence.
Deep is the water and long is the moonlight
inscribing addresses in quicksilver ink,
building the staircase a lover forever pauses upon.
Deep is the darkness and long is the night,
solid the water and liquid the light. How strange
that they arrive at all, nights on planet earth.


Sometimes, not often but repeatedly, the past invades my dreams in the form of a familiar neighborhood I can no longer locate,
a warren of streets lined with dark caf├ęs and unforgettable bars, a place where I can sing by heart every song on every jukebox,
a city that feels the way the skin of an octopus looks pulse-changing from color to color, laminar and fluid and electric,
a city of shadow-draped churches, of busses on dim avenues, or riverlights, or canyonlands, but always a city, and wonderful, and lost.
Sometimes it resembles Amsterdam, students from the ballet school like fanciful gazelles shooting pool in pink tights and soft, shapeless sweaters,
or Madrid at 4AM, arguing the 18th Brumaire with angry Marxists, or Manhattan when the snowfall crowns every trash-can king of its Bowery stoop,
or Chicago, or Dublin, or some ideal city of the imagination, as in a movie you can neither remember entirely nor completely forget,
barracuda-faced men drinking sake like yakuza in a Harukami novel, women sipping champagne or arrack, the rattle of beaded curtains in the back,
the necklaces of Christmas lights reflected in raindrops on windows, the taste of peanuts and their shells crushed to powder underfoot,
always real, always elusive, always a city, and wonderful, and lost. All night I wander alone, searching in vain for the irretrievable.


In the night I will drink from a cup of ashes and yellow paint.
In the night I will gossip with the clouds and grow strong.
In the night I will cross rooftops to watch the sea tremble in a dream.
In the night I will assemble my army of golden carpenter ants.
In the night I will walk the towpath among satellites and cosmic dust.
In the night I will cry to the roots of potted plants in empty offices.
In the night I will gather the feathers of pigeons in a honey jar.
In the night I will become an infant before your flag.

-Campbell McGrath

Friday, April 16, 2010


Consider a moment those dank, primeval basements
and mud-flooded sub-basements of the brain

where the fish and lizards

and monkeys of our formative years

still wriggle and skitter and scurry about.

If we peer deep enough inside ourselves

we can see them, there, still completeing

their respective lengths of circuitry,

still telegraphing up their two-cents worth,

from time to time, despite all our attempts

at processing and refining them away

down the spiral staircase of the spine

out into the Big Nowhere.

Look, for example, how the Gar

with their jagged, maniacal grins

are all lustfully eyeing the little pink toes

of our haplessly bobbing frontal lobe,

while the Catfish are fatly content

to sift and slither in the rich,

fertile muck of prehistoric memory.

And the skinks and Geckos and Chameleons,

all contoured and layered together

in their crevices, are dreaming of the days

when they ran the show.

And the Monkeys,

that coffee and smoke saturated

back-room gaggle of gag-men

and speech writers, all hunched and contorted

over their cranky, old Underwoods,

are up against a bitch of a deadline.

For the Alpha Male needs something to say,

something witty and charming,

yet, still somehow mysterious and aloof.

And he needs it yesterday.

-Jason Ryberg, 2009