Bio: 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.
The Island of Lost Personal Items and Effects
He told us he came from the Island of Lost Personal Items and Effects and handed me an ancient cigar box lined and padded with crumpled receipts and scraps of scratch-paper with phone numbers and addresses hastily scrawled on them. In it were nested keys, gloves, driver’s licenses, sunglasses, and three fairly expensive-looking Zippo lighters. Whenever he closed and reopened the lid, different items would be contained inside: pens, cell-phones and wedding rings, earrings and cufflinks, pocket-knives and pocket-watches. He carried a fancy oriental parasol which he claimed gave him the power of flight and wore hip-waders which he said allowed him to stroll freely around in the fabled River of Time as often as he liked (and with little fear of being pulled under and swept away by its notorious undercurrents). He also had an old cane pole strung with telegraph wire which he baited with glittering baby dreams to lure variations of the Truth (in all its slippery countenances and for his own personal and unspecified use, I would assume). The candlelight in our kitchen made his shadow dance a curious dance along the opposite wall and made his face seem like the face of a grinning bone china Buddha. When he got up to leave he stopped and said to us, I wouldn’t put too many of my eggs (golden or otherwise) in with planets and stars, nor with lucky numbers and fortunes, no more than I would on dogs and horses ... We never saw him again. Big Sister Wind Man oh man, only 10am and I can tell you already, gonna be one o’ them days when the temperature’s climbin’ steady and the air is a thick and heavy sludge. One o’ them days when the neighbor’s always-yappin’ mutts lay neutralized and sprawled about and all the birds refuse to budge, when the sun and the ground aspire to conspire to boil us down and sweat us out into the churning, bubbling atmospheric soup above. But Big Sister Wind with her gears and cranks and her cast-iron tanks and her pneumatic, automatic, operatic bellow-fulls of cool basso-profundo aint never gonna let it go that way (well, not today, anyway). Dinner With the Devil (Sleight Return) Without so much as a warning, an unwarranted weather-front of attitude is just now swoopin’ down; yes, a dark and snarly storm (with roots reaching deep beneath the norm) is about to come biblically floodin’ out from some meta-psychic-al steel drum into this tiny china tea-cup of a town. And the wind is nervously squirming and moaning and pacing around, lookin’ for a quiet corner to piss in. And over at the Congo Room (way out there by the tracks), the Stoics are demanding that the Taoists let them pass, but the Taoists are just hangin’ ten, man, cuz those guys know when it’s all been done and said, neither they nor we nor you nor them ever beats The House: naw man, no one ever really wins (you just hope to cut your losses and call the whole thing even). And everybody knows (that is, everyone that’s in the know), the Devil, he’s out there cat-scratchin’ somewhere, shuckin’ and jivin’ and makin’ the rounds, hemmin’ and hawin’ and playin’ the clown in the ever-increasingly sinister most interior of a broken-down downtown. He’s rackin’ balls and talkin’ trash, punchin’ tunes and pinchin’ ass, tryin’ to sniff out a good time or maybe just shadowin’ the sidelines, sippin’ on a scotch-and-soda, chewin’ out a toothy grin. Yeah, he’s rode into town on crow’s wings and a cloud of Oklahoma dust and he knows just what to say and do to turn the burner up a touch (beneath a city already close to boiling over with ids and egos and ill- advis’d lusts). And the wing’d monkeys are circlin’, and all your sources and connections are layin’ low, and the cops are all out in force tonight, and the city’s fixin’ to explode. But, as everybody knows (that is, everyone who’s anyone who’s even slightly in the know), Taoists never spill their drinks crossin’ a crowded room, and if you’re gonna dine with the Devil, brothers and sisters, better bring yourself a long motherfuckin’ spoon. Truly a Feast There’s always a serious swinging and flinging in her stride, a flurious fountain of sparks in her skull, and a rich ruby radiance serpentining wildly through her veins: truly a feast for the hands, the mouth and the mind’s x-ray eye, as well. But please, will someone tell me how the hell I’m supposed to crack the shell of her hypnotic and confounding code? Mr. Grey Skies (Sleight Redux) Don’t you come ‘round here, no more, Mr. Grey Skies, Mr. No-Heart-And-All-Lies, Mr. Fork’d-Tongue-And- Snak’d-Eyes, with your no-more tomorrows and your low-down tonights, your goat’s feet and your crow’s wings and your icicle-daggers always refracting a, some- how, unnatural light, your gibbering devil-monkeys and third-rate conspiracies and your spindly spider-web dreams spinning from the fat, under-belly of night. No one wants to see your cockroach of a heart pinned to your sleeve. No one wants to smell the unhealthy funk of your ragman’s bag of miseries. No one here wants any- thing to do with what you got to offer, Mr. Black Hand Man. So, get your shit-house rats and your loaded dice, your hangman’s noose and your butcher’s knife, then, take two steps back and turn away, turn away, turn away from the river of life (in which you may never, ever again step twice). Now go get your shine-box, boy, pack your bags and PUT THE GLASS DICK DOWN! Go wait shamefully at the station (with a dumb look on your face) for the last bus out of town. And you best not be seen creepin’ ‘round here no more you dirty little whore, Mr. Grey Skies, Mr. River-Of-Tears-And-Halo-Of-Flies, Mr.Keep-A-Man-Down-No-Matter-How-Hard-He- Tries. No-sir-ee, Stagger Lee, from this day forth I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee. I reclaim the body, mind and soul that I once mortgaged to thee. I spit fire at your cold fish’s eye. I kick hot sand at your sly gargoyle face. I kick dog shit on your fancy shoes. Not one more time will I hand over my money and my keys to you. Not one more time will I sacrifice my precious time for you. Not one more time will I follow you like a little, lost lamb or a red-headed stepchild into your forest of black, creaking skeletons. Now take it on the heel-and- toe, motherfucker, before I whack ya one!