This time
The Universal Fortune Cookie
Reads, curiously enough,

“things are not as they seem.”

One might even
Be tempted to, matter-of-factly state,
That, as of late, things have been
“mildly discombobulated” or
“slightly de-centered” or, at best

“precariously balanced.”

Words are shifting in their moorings,
People mistake you for long-lost cousins
And your contract with reality
Is up for re-negotiation.

For example, one minute

you’re standing on a street corner
in downtown Sturgeon Bay,
waiting for the light to change,
a rare, out-of-print Carl Perkins album
tucked up under your arm
and a twelve-pack of Stag in your hand,
when a guy with a Walt Whitman beard
leans out from the window
of a passing van and says,
with genuine universal unconditional love
“how’s it goin’, man?”

The next,

You’re suddenly plunging,
Headlong, through all the wayward
And wildly rioting leaves of late October.

All at once, it happens-

On a winding tree-lined road
Somewhere on the fringes of Sonoma County,

They tumble and whirl,
Surge and seize and sweep their way
Across the continent like massive,
skittish schools of tropical fish,

A furious and irradiant carousel
Of chaos and insane color
Washing over the car, the road,
Blocking out the sky and the world
Like a roving hybrid dream
Of starfish and exotic jungle butterflies…

Maples, Lindens and Cedars,
Pin Oaks and Box Elders,
Cottonwoods and Sycamores,
White Birches and Elms,
Black Cherries, Ashes and Osage Oranges…

A nebulous and amorphous tide
Rushing deep inland
To gather you up in its grand scheme
And carry you out
to the still breathing,
Still with us,
still very much alive and kicking

Great unknown.


It’s Sunday morning, 7AM (or so),
and the coffee pot is whispering its little secrets
to no one in particular
and the sky looks like its threatening to unload.

And, from the kitchen window,
we can see a burly tomcat
playing with something it’s caught,
down in the alley, behind the hardware store-

a cockroach or mouse, maybe;

joyously swatting and tossing it about

and then,
letting it go.

An absolution or reprieve of sorts-

Who knows?

Sometimes the world
is inexplicably alive
with such innocent, amoral
and otherwise misdirected mercies

when the Good Lord or Vishnu
or Great Earth Mother or whoever
is momentarily distracted
by some cosmic occurrence,
somewhere, and the focus of their energies
is suddenly shifted

from whatever the current object
of their loving vivisection
happens to be

(who knows; the cockroach,
the mouse, the cat, maybe you,
hell, maybe me).

But elsewhere, this morning,

we can see with the floating
magical eye of the poem,
a red-breasted robin preaching
from atop a piece of PVC pipe,

a pair of red shoes
dangling from a telephone wire,

a sky-blue tricycle
(on which so much depends)
beside four white plaster chickens,

and, Maple leaves, like propellers
cut from brittle rice paper
or sheaves of ancient papyrus,
spiraling down in little, meandering gyres
through the bright autumn air.

And somewhere
(the picture is not as clear here),

in a motel room out near the highway, maybe,
or, in a westbound car, let’s say,
just now whizzing by that very same motel
(bound for Gnaw Bone, IA or Talala, OK),

or, in some drafty downtown apartment
above a hardware store
(that never seems to have
what you’re looking for),
the radio is torturing some
sad and desperate chump
with love song after merciless love song.

Otherwise, not much else is happening.

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 lives in Kansas City, Missouri. His latest collection of poems, Blunt Trauma (co-authored with Iris Appelquist and released by Spartan Press), is most easily found at www.prosperosbookstore.com.

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