Consulting the Stars with Mark Hennessy
And then there are those
wide-open October nights
out there on the high seas
of the lower Mid-west,
and nothing but stars stars stars.
And maybe you’ve wandered
away from the fire with a friend or two
and a bottle of some not dissimilar
distillation of heat and radiance (to keep
the Universal Engine turning over, of course),
and Time, that supremely indifferent
retriever and reducer of all things
to their least divisible units
seems to have momentarily halted
in the tracks of its ceaseless stalking
of what we so self-centrically
imagine to be its sweetest, juiciest prey.
And a Greek chorus of coyotes
is commenting on the day’s events
from the next county over.
And a truck somewhere out beyond
the horizon’s line of diminishing return
blows a long, sorrowful solo.
And our phones and clocks
(those little sycophantic servants
and advisers and grand co-conspirators,
as well, no doubt) have been given
their first night off in who knows how long.
So, if you want to speak to someone,
present company should more than do.
And if, for some reason,
you find you need to know
the Time’s current whereabouts...
well, you’ll have to consult the stars.
Charles Simic Sitting in the Cheap Seats of my Dreams
It would appear to be
either a rundown vaudevillian/
burlesque theater, Poughkeepsie
or Buffalo, NY, circa 19-twenty-something,
or maybe an old, black and white,
“recorded live before a studio
audience” style television program;
“Days Of Our Lives,” and
German expressionist cinema
consisting almost entirely of various
stock caricatures and other tragi-comic
grotesqueries of the perverse
projectile vomiting hyper-dramatic
dialogue at no one in particular.
They orate, pontificate
and gesticulate, magnificently,
without ever seeming to be aware
of each other’s existence.
One of them is dressed as a World War I
Prussian Military commander, complete with
tall, shiny boots, walrussy handle bar
and singularly spiked helmet.
Another is, most likely, supposed to be
somebody’s booga-booga idea of an ancient
tribal shaman or witchdoctor.
Still another, wearing a bra and panties
and a thin silk cord running from his neck to the heel
of the high-heel shoe on his only remaining foot,
masturbates, dreamily, into the long shadow
of his nightly near-death excursion.
A chorus of mutts and street urchins
waits, attentively, for its cue (or a scrap
of food to fight over, perhaps).
And way in the back,
in the darkest and cheapest of cheap seats,
the lone, cigar smoking audience member
smacks out a slow and clamorous
Drunk Directing Traffic at the Intersection of Time and Space
No sooner had I lowered myself
down into that dark well
of ghost echos and distant whale squeak
than I was the poor boy of every
sad blues and honky-tonk song,
thumb out, on the Lost Highway
and a long, long way from home,
a lonesome stranger trying to
hitch a ride to ever-stranger lands
(and other Parts Unknown, as well).
I was Hank and Lefty,
Kerouac and Cassidy,
Quixote and Sancho.
I wore the fabled hubcap
diamond-star halo and red shoes
that were the envy of every angel
(and devil alike).
I made mid-night raids
on The Garden of Earthly Delights.
I stole Death’s pale, raggedy horse
and sold it to a traveling gypsy circus.
I directed traffic at the intersection
of Time and Space.
I rode bitch between a mega-church minister
and a street-corner preacher.
I got drunk on nine kinds of hellfire
and nearly died in a duel
over a one-legged ballerina.
I called out to you through
the dark winter forest of static
at the end of the A.M. radio dial,
waking you in the middle of the night.
If not for the alarm clock
pinching my ear with its
sharp, bony fingers,
I might not have ever
made it back.
Scenes from 39th St., Pt. 1
The Poet With The Hole In His Throat
was busy soaking copies of "Black Like Me"
in gasoline, shouting "I told you crackers
what I'd do, the next time I saw one of these things!"
And the Eastern Academic Elitist Poet
(from (eastern-most) Hoboken) was
attempting to set Tennyson's "Thanotopsis"
to jews harp, tone box and oboe.
And the ferocious Celtic/Valkyrie Poet
was feasting on the still beating hearts
of all the fallen poets foolish enough
to have fallen for her Celtic siren song.
And Gods Angry Poet was casting out
the under-cover Homeland Security Man
with Lillies Of The Field and various
lyrical incantations and the street preachers
were ladeling snake oil from a fifty gallon drum
while some faintly unwholesome character
claiming to be the latest incarnation of the Bodhisatva
was saying to everyone and anyone on the street
"PULL MY FINGER! PULL MY FINGER!"
And then the ten-thousand myriad archetypes
became strangely quiet and still, the stars all stopped,
momentarily, in their places and the angels
and demons ceased their square-dancing on the heads
of pins and ten-penny nails, everywhere.
And still the Lonely Backwoods Bukowski-
Wanna-Be Poet sat there in a dank, sub-basement
corner of his imagination, mindlessly ringing
wind chimes made from throwing stars, winding
and re-winding the ancient mechanical cricket of his art.
Standing at the Intersection of Critical Mass and Event Horizon with Tom Wayne and John Deuser, 5:47 AM (or, "Hey Man, is that an Accordian I'm Hearing?")
A million fish wash up dead
in a California harbor.
10, 000 cows keel over in Vietnam.
Thousands of Starlings, Turtle Doves
and Red Wing Blackbirds drop from the sky
in Italy, Sweden, South Dakota.
But elsewheres (and despite it all),
we’ve still managed to put in
another long (and more than respectable) night
of consorting with spirits and keeping
the Universal Kundalini humming
at that slightly heightened pitch (of radians
per reciprocal seconds) which has been
rumored to induce an "informed
euphoria" of sorts.
And now the early morning streets
(here in mid-town KC/MO, 5:47 AM)
are strangely Frisco/Portland-foggy and deserted
like one of those old-school/bad dream/
“where-did-everybody-go” sci/fi movies
from our paranoid, cold-war era past.
Or so it would seem
if not for the all-night diner with its
purple neon “OPEN” sign in the window
and the street light on the corner;
a peach-tinted glow hovering above us
like a stationary UFO whose (only mildly
bemused) occupants are, no-doubt, wondering
if these three zombified monkey-boys
and their fucked up little planet
are even worth the effort.
And from somewhere
deep inside the fog,
a strangely musical
Jason Ryberg is the author of seven books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box of loose papers that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel and a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is a also an aspiring b-movie actor. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri with a rooster named Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe. Feel free to look up his skirt