gas station famous – jason ryberg

macro 2

for Victor Clevenger and John Dorsey

It was a hot and windy Saturday morning
in mid-September and Summer was clearly
letting us know that it wasn’t quite done with us yet.

We were buying coffee and donuts and DayQuil
at a gas station just outside of St. John, Kansas
in a desperate, pre-emptive effort to circumvent our
looming collective hangovers before they really kicked in.

I was wearing all black,
doing my best shabby working-man chic /
3rd rate Tom Waits / Johnny Cash shtick: big boots
big belt buckle and paper-boy hat, rakishly angled.

Victor had more of a quaffed and groomed
punk rock / hip-hop thing going:
red Chuck Taylors, baggy jeans,
silk bowling style shirt showing his sleeves of tattoos,
a black stingy-brim and faint hint of cologne.

And John was just doing John as only John can do:
golden ringlets and big, bushy beard,
classic black-rimmed nerd glasses and Doc Marten’s
with Virgin Marys painted on them.
I suppose we must have appeared a bit exotic
and out of place to some of the locals who
came and went with their purchases that morning:

just sitting on the bench outside,
sipping our coffee, scratching away at lottery tickets,
trying to figure out our next move while
watching a lone tumble-weed drunkenly
meander its way North on US 281.

We were on the road and off the grid—
AWOL, MIA and whereabouts unknown:
three wayward, vagabond gypsy-princes of poesy,
tethered to nothing and beholden to no one,
spreading the seed of The Word wherever the wind took us…

Eventually, the girl working there came outside,
fired up a Pall Mall and asked us,

Y’all famous?

Ryberg author photo

Jason Ryberg is the author of thirteen 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 collection of poems is Standing at the Intersection of Critical Mass and Event Horizon (Luchador Press, 2019). 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. 

Top Photo: Christopher Paul High

three poems – john dorsey


Where the Prom Queen Ends Up or Poem for Kristen

there is nobody waiting outside
the cowboy cafe & truck stop
to bring you flowers
or even offer you their coat
on a rainy afternoon
in lyman wyoming

most mornings you are
the first thing the sun sees
no matter when you punch in
& time stands still just long enough
for you to remember
how you ended up here

how this was just supposed to be a summer job
how calendars can bend the will of any ambition
how your thighs were once a temple of worship

stray dogs still sniff your ass
for that last scent of beauty
for that last slice of cherry pie
made holy by your touch

at least once a day
you are still
the most beautiful woman in the world
depending on who you ask

& if the wind kicks up just right
in any direction
you are still magic.


The Ballad of Pegleg & Double Stamp

as we drop him off at the greyhound
crazy mark says that the whole country is on fire

just outside the station
a legless vietnam vet asks a young girl
where she got her tattoos done

& i think maybe she’s a prostitute
or maybe she just looks like his daughter

or the high school sweetheart
he left on prom night
to wander into a jungle
of regret

that’s the thing about flames
you can move in any direction
& still end up
in places you never
intended to go.


Free as a Bird
for eric roetter

the image i have
in my heart
is you flying
through city streets
on your bicycle

before daylight
before heroin

the birdman of broad street

i’ll tell ya brother
you were already pure.


John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Press, 2017). He is the former Poet Laureate of Belle, MO and Co-Editor, with Jason Ryberg, of the Gasconade Review. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at

Photo: Abigail Lynn