Drunk in a Bar in Qandahar
She had a wicked straight razor for a smile
and rocket fuel for blood.
Her soul was a mighty sunflower stalk
towering from a five-gallon bucket
in which local legend held something
had drowned before she was even born.
She was the absentee landlady
of a half-way house for recovering
She lived on a steady diet of
martinis, pills and cigarillos.
She had hi-tech security cameras for eyes.
Her pilot light constantly needed to be relit
by whichever man or woman or non-binary
of the moment that she picked up
on her frequent after-hour forays / incursions /
Rumor had it she slept most of the day
on an ancient chez lounge that Freud
allegedly lost to Jung in a game of Canasta.
Nobody had seen her in a month
of Sunday school classes.
Her father said she was probably
drunk in a bar in Qandahar or
dead in a ditch in Mogadishu.
But still, every night in my lonely,
fourth-floor attic apartment,
I’d put on my headphones and fire up
my H.A.M. radio, hoping to catch
even the faintest trace
of her flickering
Pitchforks and Tiki Torches (or, How’s This
for First Thought / Best Thought, Pt.4?)
The night started out with pitchforks and tiki torches (by
God we were gonna storm the mad scientist’s castle this
time!) only to be derailed (again!) with empty platitudes
and assuasions and cheap bottles of brandy, and then, the
next thing I know, I’m tumbling headbone over footbone
through the pan-o-ramic, psych-o-delic dream-o-sphere
for what must have been years and years, only to wake
from it all with a scream, sprawled-out on a broken-down
couch on the curb of an abandoned suburban Mcmansion
in some dystopian version of our own reality. Somehow
I’d evaded the ever-watchful electronic eyes of the roving
neighborhood robot patrol. Thank God (again) for my
paste-on mustache and my dime store wig, and an extra
hi-five and hallelujah to all the better angels and demons
of His (or Her) supernature for giving me the gift of my
preternatural Spidey senses, that very instant enabling me
to (barely) circumnavigate what must have been a pop
bottle Molotov, full of piss, thrown from a speeding car
of degenerate punks. Little rat fuck bastards. Don’t think
I didn’t get their scent and their license plate number,
as well. They’ll be feeding the weeds in my backyard this
time next week. Shiiiit, those mothertruckers must be
trippin,’ thinkin’ I don’t know my Queen from my
Zeppelin (the point being, keyboards, like any spice or
seasoning, are best applied sparingly). But what was it
you were saying again, my dear? Something about a
treasure map hidden inside a wooden leg?
Uncle Mikey’s Hard Night,
Out the Door, No Time for Breakfast,
Breakfast of Champions
1 highball glass (etched with fisherman wrestling bass
or flock of ducks suddenly taking flight).
1 can of beer (Hamms, Olympia, PBR or Stag).
2 raw eggs (chicken, duck or goose. There will most likely
be a few trace elements of mud, shit and straw).
1 bottle of hot sauce (Frank’s Red Hot, Chilula, Sriracha.
Whatever you got).
Pour beer in glass. Let the head die down.
Crack eggs into beer. Watch out for bits of shell (as well
as the afore-mentioned mud, shit and straw).
Add four or five healthy shakes of hot sauce.
Do not mix or stir.
Kill it quick.
A Few Finer Plot Points
You May Have Missed
What about the rocking chair
on the front porch of the old sanitarium,
rocking back and forth with a ghost
of the wind’s nervous energy?
What about the boiling pot
of who knows what left unattended
on the stove?
What about the ancient night-watchman
making his rounds through the collective
dream world of whoever may be sleeping
at any given moment?
What about the lone gypsy prince
wearing Picasso’s hat and Dali’s mustache,
barreling down I-70 at midnight on his
magnificent chrome machine?
What about bouquets of weeds and wildflowers
as metaphors for any occasion?
What about the meek little man
answering his master’s call with
Queen to Bishop6. Checkmate, I think?
What about the haunted player-piano,
spontaneously erupting, now and then,
with Chopin’s mazurka’s and W.C. Handy’s
stomps and boogies (and even the occasional
Gilbert and Sullivan)?
What about the glass eye, possessed by
the spirit of its previous owner, waiting
for the right person to come along?
What about the bluebird trapped
in the boarded-up warehouse,
fluttering frantically for a way out?
What about the bottle-rocket shot by
the tow-headed kid in the first act,
that has apparently been smoldering all this time
on the wood shingle roof of the Pentecostal church?
What about the vacuum left by
the frequent and conspicuous absence
of hope (that red-headed, hair-lipped
little stepchild of the world) just
when it’s needed the most?
What about the bride without a head?
What about the lone wolf without a foot?
That Which Doesn’t Kill You
less) by the
side of a road,
or at the
or in a burning
then, years later,
on the phone
every now and
then, in the
the night, just
to tell you
to a deep
if it really
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 A Secret History of the Nighttime World (39 West, 2018) and Lone Wolves, Black Sheep and Red-Headed Stepchildren (Kung Fu Treachery Press, 2018). 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.