Monday, September 3, 2018

Poet in the Graveyard (Whistling Dixie in the Dark) for Brandon Whitehead. by Jason Ryberg

It was mid-July
and had rained most of the day
(so you can bet your ass it was humid
and sticky as hell) and I had this goofy tune
bouncing around inside my head
that I just couldn’t shake: way down yonder
in the land of cotton, old times there,
they aint forgotten, look away,
look away, look away ...

You know the one.

And the moon and the stars
were nowhere to be seen
and the locusts and the crickets
had their maniacal cartoon calliope machines
cranked all the way to eleven.

And I was seriously entertaining the idea
of turning the hell around
and taking the long way home
WHEN SUDDENLY! (and aint it always
suddenly in situations like this?)

I found one of my feet sunk knee-deep
in what I soon realized was a very recently filled
(very recently rained-upon) burial plot.

And the moon and the stars
were still refusing to show
and I’d swear my spook show
accompaniment of crickets and locusts
came to an absolute dead stop.

And yes, I believe I very nearly soiled myself
(very nearly filled my britches
as my Uncle Mikey used to say)
as I sprawled and struggled, there,
in the oily, mucky, mosquito-infused dark.
And sure, I’d like to say that’s how they found me
(the groundskeepers, the cops,
the EMTs, whoever),

that I was babbling and raving wildly
and had obviously gone mad,
my hair turned completely white, even,
that I’d clawed my own eyes out at the sight
of some horrible thing that
just should not be,

that something down there
had grabbed my leg and pulled
and pulled (not totally dissimilar
from the way you may think
I’ve been pulling yours, I’m sure),

that I’ve written this whole thing
while resting and recuperating, indefinitely,
under strict observation at a minimum security
mental health facility (in that classic
Lovecraftian fashion).

But no,
eventually I Christ-all-mightied,
and son-of-a-bitched my foot free
just as it began to rain again.

And, eventually,
I collected my scattered faculties
and somehow summoned the desperate,
drunken courage to reach down deep
into that slimy suck-hole and retrieve my shoe
(now, pretty much ruined),
then shamefully shambled
and squelched my way home.

And all the while,
that sinister and perverse musical phantom
pin-balling around inside the empty
Victorian opera-house of my skull,
tormenting me with its cloying,
insipid adulation for the Lost Confederate Cause
and the grand old antebellum South...

But I’d be goddamned if I was gonna give
whatever smug and smirking gods looking
down on me the satisfaction,

no matter how goddamn catchy
that goddamed tune was.

Jason Ryberg is the author of twelve 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 collections of poems 
are Head Full of Boogeymen / Belly Full of Snakes(Spartan Press, 2016) 
and A Secret History of the Nighttime World (39 West Press, 2017). 
He lives part-time in Kansas City 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. 

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