Jason Ryberg

Puttin’ a Hurt On

I’m pretty sure it all started out with
a pitcher of Stag and a couple of shots
of Old Gal Whiskey (where upon the label
it reads, clearly enough, She’ll Do!), then
came nachos and spicy chicken wings
that looked like they could have been
grown in a lab, then more shots of some
cantankerous, sickly-sweet cinnamon flavored
mouthwash and another pitcher of beer
to cleanse the pallet and wash down the multi-
layered gut-bomb burgers that had suddenly
appeared before us out of nowhere, like UFOs
dropping down out of a starless sky, and
another pitcher and obligatory round of shots
of something black and herbal to aid with the
digestion process I am assured by our host
and master of ceremonies, and as we all raise
our drinks to toast whatever brief, fleeting
occasion that has brought us all together here
(of which there will never be another exactly
like it), I am momentarily seized by a vision
off in the distance, of a shallow grave (that,
clearly, I have dug for myself) beneath a spindly,
leafless tree with a lone bird on a branch, and

standing next to it, a stern, rigid commandant
of a man; but instead of a Luger or Tommy Gun

in his hands, he is holding a glass of water and a
packet of Alka Selzer (Plus Cold) of which I will,
at some point, gladly and gratefully receive-
yes, this most magnificent and merciful coup de gras.


Still-Life of Blue Jay Sitting on Broken-Down Refrigerator

I was sitting on the back porch
sipping on some sweat tea and bourbon

after a long day of hauling junk to the dump
and there’s this big, sassy Blue Jay brazenly
perched and puffed-up on a busted refrigerator
we somehow missed earlier, and he’s giving me
the stink eye, maybe even thinking
what’s up
with this guy, this no-flying, blah-blah-blah-
spewing, stomp-stomp-stomping around,
hairless, featherless, colorless clown with his
great big brain and fancy opposable thumbs,
but still always shitting in his own nest and
generally fucking things up for the rest of us
like he owned the place or something and we
we’re all just a bunch of squatters –
no, no old Poe
crow, this, sitting on gleaming bust of Pallas
to torment my sleepless after-hours, but maybe
still some kind of generic, low-grade harbinger
of encroaching doom or ruffled beast of the
And then he cackled a few more notes,
took a dump and fluttered up, up and away
and out of my life forever.


Jason Ryberg is the author of fourteen 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 Are You Sure Kerouac Done It This Way!? (co-authored with John Dorsey, and Victor Clevenger, OAC Books, 2021). 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.