Wednesday, March 31, 2010


City That Does Not Sleep

In the sky there is nobody asleep.  Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the

Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices
of the dead dahlias.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
eyes of cows.

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention
of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
are waiting,
where the bear's teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

-Federico García Lorca
(Translated by Robert Bly)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


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
to properly announce the Judeo-Christian
All-Father'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

Friday, March 26, 2010



in the cold dark,
I look
through the closed dim
door be-
fore me, which be-
comes an
abyss into
which my
memories have
past laughter or
passion or hard
memories of
our past
laughter, horror,
hard work. An ache
of be-
ing. An ache of
over love. An
ache of
being over
love. Like
projections on
the screen
of the heavy
curtains, flashing
lights of
a slow-scraping
midnight snowplow
for a
moment pulse in
this room.

-Reginald Gibbons

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Your Family’s Farm, Empty

"Buildings can't want."
—Donald Rumsfeld

Neither does the ax regret each tree it has bitten,
though it leans against the shed
like a drunk locked out of his own house.

The tractor doesn't moon
over the physique of its youth.
The dry birdbath makes no plans
for the future.

What can the barn recall of the day
you climbed the ladder into its loft and found

a pair of buzzard chicks
skulking among the hay bales?
Your grandfather shot them with a pistol

and kicked them out of the haymow for you
to carry to the ditch beyond the field.

Does the barn remember those shots
exploding inside it like a burst neuron?
The weight of those bodies thudding to earth?

Can the field remember your feet crossing it, the air
heavy with crickets?
Does the ditch remember the bones the coyotes
gnawed and scattered?

You stand here, where the walnut tree was felled,
one foot on the smooth disc of the stump.

The grass makes no demands on your soul.
The cow paths are as forgetful as the rain.

If it is possible,
the kennel
grown over with morning glories
is less than indifferent to silence.

-Nick Lantz

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Spring Snow

A spring snow coincides with plum blossoms.
In a month, you will forget, then remember
when nine ravens perched in the elm sway in wind.

I will remember when I brake to a stop,
and a hubcap rolls through the intersection.
An angry man grinds pepper onto his salad;

it is how you nail a tin amulet ear
into the lintel. If, in deep emotion, we are
possessed by the idea of possession,

we can never lose to recover what is ours.
Sounds of an abacus are amplified and condensed
to resemble sounds of hail on a tin roof,

but mind opens to the smell of lightening.
Bodies were vaporized to shadows by intense heat;
in memory people outline bodies on walls.

-Arthur Sze

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Deaf Night at O'Donnell's

I happen in
from another unremarkable
Tuesday in the realm
of gratuitous sound, but here,
I can hear again
the quiet voices of the ontological,
the clink of ice cubes
in uplifted glasses,
the scrape of chairs,
the mournful lowing of floorboards,
the long history of blood
retold in my ears.

I scuffle to the bar, thoughts
by my suddenly thunderous
presence in this world,
and the silence flowing
from the neon jukebox,
the silence going down
smooth as the shot
of loneliness that would
naturally follow
a Billie Holiday song
if one were playing—

—while everywhere hands
are fluttering like sheets
in winds of gossip,
hollering above last call
for one more round.

-Art Nahill

Friday, March 19, 2010



Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen

Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt

Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead

How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye

With cloud for shift
how will I hide?

-May Swenson

Thursday, March 18, 2010



They wrote it all down for me
in the living room on the walls.
They wrote who gave it up and who wanted it
most and a phone number. They told me
where to stick it, how to like it,
what the consistency was. There was a lot
I didn't get, but they left more under the bridge
and against the back of Red Plank Records.
I never met them. They'd come in the smoke
of my absence, during the hum
of appliances that needed to be wrapped
with stuffing and tape.
They made me the queen of their intent,
all the messages like stars
on the undersides of overpasses. I stay informed
about the people—what they do to each other,
how to take it, what number to call
for a piece of your own, and what happens
if you're not there to get it.
I watch for them to come back.
I watch for them from across the street
in my rented room with the walls painted red
and my little bit on and the curtains
more than slightly parted.

-Jennifer Boyden

Tuesday, March 16, 2010



I give the undertakers permission to haul my body 
to the graveyard and to lay away all, the head, the
feet, the hands, all: I know there is something left
over they can not put away.

Let the nanny goats and the billy goats of the shanty
people eat the clover over my grave and if any yellow
hair or any blue smoke of flowers is good enough to grow
over me let the dirty-fisted children of the shanty
people pick these flowers.

I have had my chance to live with the people who have
too much and the people who have too little and I chose
one of the two and I have told no man why.

-Carl Sandburg

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Gic to Har

It is late at night, cold and damp
The air is filled with tobacco smoke.
My brain is worried and tired.
I pick up the encyclopedia,
The volume GIC to HAR,
It seems I have read everything in it,
So many other nights like this.
I sit staring empty-headed at the article Grosbeak,
Listening to the long rattle and pound
Of freight cars and switch engines in the distance.
Suddenly I remember
Coming home from swimming
In Ten Mile Creek,
Over the long moraine in the early summer evening,
My hair wet, smelling of waterweeds and mud.
I remember a sycamore in front of a ruined farmhouse,
And instantly and clearly the revelation
Of a song of incredible purity and joy,
My first rose-breasted grosbeak,
Facing the low sun, his body
Suffused with light.
I was motionless and cold in the hot evening
Until he flew away, and I went on knowing
In my twelfth year one of the great things
Of my life had happened.
Thirty factories empty their refuse in the creek.
On the parched lawns are starlings, alien and aggressive.
And I am on the other side of the continent
Ten years in an unfriendly city.

by Kenneth Rexroth

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


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 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
in 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 assuage 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 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 anything
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 gonna be alright... "

-Jason Ryberg, 2010


Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you
through the flames]

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable
of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times,
even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain,
you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay,
you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini,
you are an American or a non-American,
you can conquer the conquerors with words....

-Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Monday, March 8, 2010


I Am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra

'The devil must be forced to reveal any such
physical evil (potions, charms, fetishes, etc.)
still outside the body and these must be burned.'
Rituale Romanum, published 1947, endorsed
by the coat-of-arms and introductory
letter from Francis cardinal Spellman)

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra,
sidewinders in the saloons of fools
bit my forehead like O
the untrustworthiness of Egyptologists
who do not know their trips. Who was that
dog-faced man? they asked, the day I rode
from town.

School marms with halitosis cannot see
the Nefertiti fake chipped on the run by slick
germans, the hawk behind Sonny Rollins' head or
the ritual beard of his axe; a longhorn winding
its bells thru the Field of Reeds.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. I bedded
down with Isis, Lady of the Boogaloo, dove
deep down in her horny, stuck up her Wells-Far-ago
in daring midday getaway. 'Start grabbing the
blue,' I said from top of my double crown.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Ezzard Charles
of the Chisholm Trail. Took up the bass but they
blew off my thumb. Alchemist in ringmanship but a
sucker for the right cross.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Vamoosed from
the temple i bide my time. The price on the wanted
poster was a-going down, outlaw alias copped my
stance and moody greenhorns were making me dance;
while my mouth's
shooting iron got its chambers jammed.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Boning-up in
the ol' West i bide my time. You should see
me pick off these tin cans whippersnappers. I
write the motown long plays for the comeback of
Osiris. Make them up when stars stare at sleeping
steer out here near the campfire. Women arrive
on the backs of goats and throw themselves on
my Bowie.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Lord of the lash,
the Loup Garou Kid. Half breed son of Pisces and
Aquarius. I hold the souls of men in my pot. I do
the dirty boogie with scorpions. I make the bulls
keep still and was the first swinger to grape
the taste.

I am a cowboy in his boat. Pope Joan of the
Ptah Ra. C/mere a minute willya doll?
Be a good girl and
bring me my Buffalo horn of black powder
bring me my headdress of black feathers
bring me my bones of Ju-Ju snake
go get my eyelids of red paint.
Hand me my shadow

I'm going into town after Set

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra

look out Set here i come Set
to get Set to sunset Set
to unseat Set to Set down Set

usurper of the Royal couch
imposter RAdio of Moses' bush
party pooper O hater of dance
vampire outlaw of the milky way.

-Ishmael Reed

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital
for the Criminal Insane

Hard Rock / was / "known not to take no shit
From nobody," and he had the scars to prove it:
Split purple lips, lumbed ears, welts above
His yellow eyes, and one long scar that cut
Across his temple and plowed through a thick
Canopy of kinky hair.

The WORD / was / that Hard Rock wasn't a mean nigger
Anymore, that the doctors had bored a hole in his head,
Cut out part of his brain, and shot electricity
Through the rest. When they brought Hard Rock back,
Handcuffed and chained, he was turned loose,
Like a freshly gelded stallion, to try his new status.
And we all waited and watched, like a herd of sheep,
To see if the WORD was true.

As we waited we wrapped ourselves in the cloak
Of his exploits: "Man, the last time, it took eight
Screws to put him in the Hole." "Yeah, remember when he
Smacked the captain with his dinner tray?" "He set
The record for time in the Hole--67 straight days!"
"Ol Hard Rock! man, that's one crazy nigger."
And then the jewel of a myth that Hard Rock had once bit
A screw on the thumb and poisoned him with syphilitic spit.

The testing came, to see if Hard Rock was really tame.
A hillbilly called him a black son of a bitch
And didn't lose his teeth, a screw who knew Hard Rock
From before shook him down and barked in his face.
And Hard Rock did nothing. Just grinned and looked silly,
His eyes empty like knot holes in a fence.

And even after we discovered that it took Hard Rock
Exactly 3 minutes to tell you his first name,
We told ourselves that he had just wised up,
Was being cool; but we could not fool ourselves for long,
And we turned away, our eyes on the ground. Crushed.
He had been our Destroyer, the doer of things
We dreamed of doing but could not bring ourselves to do,
The fears of years, like a biting whip,
Had cut deep bloody grooves
Across our backs.

-Etheridge Knight

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Eyes Fastened With Pins

How much death works,
No one knows what a long
Day he puts in. The little
Wife always alone
Ironing death's laundry.
The beautiful daughters
Setting death's supper table.
The neighbors playing
Pinochle in the backyard
Or just sitting on the steps
Drinking beer. Death,
Meanwhile, in a strange
Part of town looking for
Someone with a bad cough,
But the address somehow wrong,
Even death can't figure it out
Among all the locked doors...
And the rain beginning to fall.
Long windy night ahead.
Death with not even a newspaper
To cover his head, not even
A dime to call the one pining away,
Undressing slowly, sleepily,
And stretching naked
On death's side of the bed.

-Charles Simic

Monday, March 1, 2010


Whereas I can understand why coveting what
other people have is generally considered to be
a bad thing (or at least not good in the way, say Socrates
would have conceived of it along with his notions of

the Just and the Beautiful; the “what”, in this case,
being a real beauty I’ve had my eye and mind on
for some time now and the “other” being, not exactly,
a good friend of mine but an otherwise “OK guy” who,

just for the record, always seems to net a little more
than his fair share of both the Good and the Beautiful
if not exactly justly, so) and why loving thy neighbor
is usually agreed upon by priests, philosophers, politicians

and other members-in-good-standing of Chambers
of Commerce everywhere as being a good thing
(even though my attempts at loving them both
in my own separate and compartmentalized way

have been met with a degree of complication, if not
resistance, respectively, and, you know, the more
I think about things, this guy probably qualifies
as more of a “friendly acquaintance” than a “friend,” really),

the more I think about how much I’ve really wanted to
fuck this girl (as well as do other nice things for her
like bake bread for her and lift heavy things for her
and massage her feet and shoulders and be there for her

when she needs someone to hold her and say “there, there,
little soldier, everything’s gonna be OK” and still do,
now more than ever, despite the fact she’s “taken”
as they say), but I just can’t help wanting some vague

misfortune to befall this dude and just sort of
knock him out of the way; nothing by my own hand,
of course, and nothing too terribly bad; maybe something
along the lines of a minor industrial accident or alien abduction or

perfectly mundane and random example of someone
simply slipping on a well placed banana peel of the perverse

and tumbling right the fuck out of the scene, leaving me
absolutely golden and resplendent in a somehow wholly new

and different light in her eyes, right? YER GODDAMN
RIGHT I’M RIGHT!!! Somehow more intriguingly mysterious,
more smolderingly, viscerally virile, more ruggedly,
ribaldly, irresistably charismatic (if not exactly as monied

and handsome as my former nemesis-by-proxy) in a way
she somehow hadn’t noticed before this momentous occasion.
But, if you’ve managed to labor this far into the poem
and you’ve got even a basic aptitude for three dimensional

thinking, then you probably already know the score:
she’s every girl I’ve ever needed but couldn’t have and he’s
every one of those guys that swoops in superhero style
and scoops them up right before the pool of my idiot

slack jaw drool and my bugged-out, disbelieving eyes.
And me? I guess I’m the kid what likes to crack wise a bit,
sitting nose-first in the corner of the classroom,
wearing a pointy hat, or maybe I’m the guy that kid

inevitably grows up to be if he doesn’t get wise, fast,
you know; that ragged, little monkey man (with the haggard
little monkey dance), the one you see every now and then,
standing at that dangerous and dreary three-way intersection

of Rejection, Self Loathing and Unresolved Lust (some long,
dark knight’s errant quest for the Good, the Beautiful and the Just,
very possibly the reason he’s even in this mess),
a cardboard sign in his hands that reads


-Jason Ryberg, 2010


The First Night

The worst thing about death must be
the first night.
—Juan Ramón Jiménez

Before I opened you, Jiménez,
it never occurred to me that
day and night
would continue to circle each other
in the ring of death,

but now you have me wondering
if there will also be a sun
and a moon and will the dead gather
to watch them rise and set

then repair, each soul alone,
to some ghastly equivalent of a bed.
Or will the first night be
the only night,

a darkness for which we have
no other name?
How feeble our vocabulary
in the face of death,
How impossible to write it down.

This is where language will stop,
the horse we have ridden all our lives
rearing up at the edge
of a dizzying cliff.

The word that was in the beginning
and the word that was made flesh—
those and all the other words
will cease.

Even now, reading you on this
trellised porch, how can I describe a sun
that will shine after death?
But it is enough to frighten me

into paying more attention to the world’s
day-moon, to sunlight bright on water
or fragmented in a grove of trees,

and to look more closely here at these
small leaves, these sentinel thorns,
whose employment it is to guard the rose.

-Billy Collins