I see a dark and cluttered curiosities shop
overflowing with old tuxedos and fancy combs,
snuff boxes and china dolls,
big belt buckles and giggling garden gnomes,
books and magazines and postcards
from places that no longer exist,
(to people who’ve been gone for decades).
I see an ominous gothic architecture
full of monstrous ideas (stuffed
and mounted, but still not quite dead).
I see an old, rundown Vaudeville theater
wherein old, rundown drunks
watch naked emotions writhe
and gyrate upon a spotlit stage.
I see leaves falling on the surface of a pond:
fish bones, beer bottles, rowboats, and
old dreams asleep on the cold, muddy bottom.
I see a plow mule, trapped and maddened,
in the ballroom of an abandoned antebellum mansion,
and a furious black thunderstorm (with lightning
in its hair) pounding and pounding at the front door,
demanding an offering of spare change
I see a sailor in a bar,
drinking gin and playing gin rummy
(secretly pining for his past life as a barn swallow),
and a tailor’s dummy standing in the corner
of a tiny room, just upstairs from the bar;
the soles of somebody’s shoes
showing from beneath the bed,
something sinister or ridiculous
(or both) about to happen.
I see a man walking down a dark street,
unable to sleep without his nightly dosage
of Ellington’s Indigos or Gould’s Variations.
His heart is a wasp’s nest laboring
earnestly to make honey.
His head is a hotel kitchen
full of screaming Greeks and Mexicans and Slavs,
and one lost and rather simple-looking white boy.
The man has stooped to pick something up
from the street corner, an important-looking key
on a bright red string,
a Christmas ornament, almost,
in its shining, ornate delicacy.
Though he will later misplace it
somewhere foolishly obvious
during some minor misadventure,
nevertheless, it will continue to lead him
in ever-widening and shrinking circles
like an ill-advised idea or broken diving rod,
most likely for the rest of his life.
The 2015 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry
We are pleased to announce this poem as a Finalist for the 2015 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry, honoring the independent press’ best poems of the year. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blindly and selects the full list of finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.
JASON RYBERG is the author of seven books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, several angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors, and a box full of folders, notebooks, and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel. He was recently an artist-in-residence at The Prospero Institute of Disquieted Poetics and is an aspiring B-movie actor. His latest collection of poems is Down, Down and Away, co-authored with Josh Rizer and released by Spartan Press. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with a rooster named Little Red and a billy goat named Giuseppe. Feel free to look up his skirt at jasonryberg.blogspot.com.
Originally published on 9/7/15.