Poetry: Selections from Kevin Ridgeway

Long Beach Summer

I march around mounds of dirt
from city workers digging trenches
the sidewalks gone
and a death gauntlet formed
for sad little pedestrians like me
a mangled Charlie Chaplin
dodging hood side obstacles,
drug addicts and homeless people
lining whatever pavement is left for me
to take the long way around them all.
A car nearly runs over me in a crosswalk
I had to climb onto from a large pit
of war-torn cement, the beautiful face
of the woman at its wheel whispering
“I am so sorry” to me as she drives on.
I realize I would have forgiven her
even if she had killed me, because
she was the most glorious thing
I’d seen all day amongst the ugly rubble
of this seaside ghetto, on my way
to a clinic for troubled minds to converge
and sort through their problems
in the wildfire smoke of this confusion,
an isolation who existed before
a pandemic came along to dig
the holes deeper than the ones left
along the avenues, where men
scream at the ghosts who took away
all they have lost.  We’ve all been
eclipsed by a sun that’s crazier
than anyone on the face of this
strange earth, the men in the
hard hats yell things to each other
I don’t understand, and I think they
are all talking about me because
of the expression on my face,
a sweat fueled grimace hidden
behind the alleyways and dim lit
morning bungalows as the world
wakes up to its mess and begins
again to try to rebuild itself as I try
to rebuild myself, a warrior with
an existential shovel that’s going
to get down to the bottom of this hell,
to extinguish its many flames
and build a light that glows like
the face of that woman, who
nearly gave me something
beautiful to look at while I died.

Speedos & Mosquitos

Long Beach men scratch
the unprotected chafe
around their bared asses
around drooping lines
of elastic and the bright colored
polyester of sporting goods line
men’s Speedos, attracting
summer mosquitoes to bite
and leave with their ugly blood.
The pale, moist tan lines
disturb the children
and the poor women
who have to swipe away
the mosquitoes while
gazing at banana-hammock
crotch shots strutting
along the shore line,
covered in the hickies
from their parasite admirers—
the only lovers they’re
going to nail underneath
an unforgiving sun
here in the pits of a hell
where these men
blind us with the audacity
of their gooch reveals
while they stretch
in yoga classes
where trauma is born
in the summertime masses,
blood spilling across dirty sand.    

The Art of Doing Nothing on the 4th of July

there’s not a damn thing
to celebrate about this shitshow,
so I’m watching Natural Born Killers
on Netflix and eating Church’s Chicken,
goofed up on Seroquel, watching
the men in my house shuffle
back and forth like robots while
premature bombs start to go off,
fireworks reaching their bright,
sparkling, dangerous arms
toward the window of my room
while I lay here in my bed
surrounded by half-read books
tangled in phone charging chords
and a dim, glowing smile, numb
to the defeat spreading around
the bruised world, my righteous
anger and hope for justice tucked
away for now while I watch
Woody Harrelson bludgeon
Rodney Dangerfield to death—
comedians are getting attacked,
you can’t say a word these days,
the truth that’s on your mind,
so I hide from the truth here
in my den while the sky blows up
for another year another stupid
fucking summer of dumb hot dogs
and people saying regrettable
things in a beer buzzed stupor
until reality sets in and I have
to return to my own fledgling
quest for independence in a world
that’s getting harder to ignore
as it screams in agony, but I have
my own agony to contend with,
so I’m shutting off America
and claiming my independence
from it for a day in the clouds
of cheap cinema and underground
poetry and staring at the sun
while I smoke cigarettes,
my tortured thoughts ashes
in the gutters of the fiery streets
where children step on them
in the name of a kind of fun
I like to call fuck it all to hell.  

That’ll Show ‘Em

I dropped out
of college
got married
& got a divorce
from a wife
who said I was
too dramatic.
I moved back in
with my mother,
who suggested
I audition at
the local
community theater.
I scoffed at her,
hid in my room,
& started writing
bad poetry instead.

Jack of all Trades

I don’t know
if I’m a poet
or if I’m
a mental case
but the fact
that I’m sitting
here, listening
to my roommate
blast Boy George
and talk how about
how the Russians
are tapping
his phone
with a paranoid
stutter makes me
grab my pen,
laugh and think
I’m both

Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019) and Invasion of the Shadow People (Luchador Press, 2022). His work has appeared in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Main Street Rag, San Pedro River Review, Trailer Park Quarterly, Plainsongs, The Cape Rock, Into the Void, Sheila-Na-Gig, Lummox, Misfit Magazine, Cultural Daily, The American Journal of Poetry and So it Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, among others.  A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, he lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.