Poetry: Selections from Kevin Ridgeway

When I’m out there 
alone in the world
& my plans go awry,  
my transformation 
into Clark W. Griswold  
slowly begins, 
with my crown 
of heat sweat 
trousers, raving 
& yelling at nothing 
with nobody to listen 
in an endless desert 
I can’t find my way 
out of because 
I can’t get over myself 
until I’m melted 
to the sand
in my raging mirage 
of self-defeat,
& there’s always 
a local to point out 
what an asshole I am, 
but they don’t know me 
& how sparky 
my personality 
can be with 
a big fucking smile 
plastered on my face 
on a holiday road
bound for disaster.  

They wanted us all to Just Say No,
but the problem was the producers 
of most of those late 80s/early 90s 
after school specials were high 
on drugs when they created them.
One Saturday morning half hour 
anti-drug special produced by 
McDonald’s featured nearly every 
animated character known to kids, 
many of them dreamed up in heads 
full of the same dope they wanted us 
to say nope to.  Cartoon All-Stars 
to the Rescue featured Bugs Bunny, 
the Ninja Turtles, Garfield, Kermit,   
the Chipmunks and Alf, among 
others who all creeped me out 
with serious talk about melting 
all of my brain cells, cast alongside 
a crypt keeper apparition voiced 
by Academy Award-winning 
drunk George C. Scott as the demon
of addiction, the finale a wretched,
saccharine song and dance number 
that still gives me shivers—
the Me Generation fucked me up 
so much in their failed attempts 
to teach me how to Just Say No,  
that they inspired me to Just Do It.

I was just five years old and
wanted her so badly it hurt 
every inch of my unformed, 
hairless body.  She was the 
twenty year old daughter of 
the pastor of a church we briefly 
attended before grandma quit 
drinking and came to her senses.  
Her big 1989 hair and low cut 
dresses made going to Bible Study 
Thursdays and all that other 
hokum worthwhile.  I had a funny 
tingle deep inside of me that I had 
never felt before.  I finally got up 
the guts to ask her out on a date.  
She agreed to go with me to 
the church pancake brunch, 
which was a really big deal, 
so I wore the purple California 
Raisins sweatshirt reserved only 
for special occasions that I knew 
would get her to want to be at 
my handsome side by nap time.  
These hopes were dashed when 
I tried to impress her with my 
Ghostbusters action figure play 
set.  She called the Ghostbusters 
morbid tools of Satan designed 
to take me away from Christ. She 
placed her hand on my cowlick 
and began to pray the Keymaster
out of me.  I had to dump her 
right then and there.  Her beauty 
was not enough to forgive taking 
the Ghostbusters' names in vain.  
It was like crossing the streams.

This is the poem within the poem, 
a pie eating contest at the county fair
about to turn rancid with a revenge
barf-a-thon chain reaction instigated 
by the fictitious man of the hour, 
who’s about as alive as Ray Brower, 
laying dead by the railroad tracks 
in the real life of a novella spun onto 
moving frames by the son of a clown 
for the grieving kid brother to see,
who told the others in the gang about 
the triumph of the ultimate social reject 
who put their own dejection to shame:
a reason I didn’t eat pies until recently, 
to honor a glory against bullies 
& tyrants who made us almost 
grieve ourselves more than the dead,
but Lardass sits back with all of us,
taking in the horrors, the chaos & 
smell of vomit in the morning loved 
more than napalm by people like me 
that stand by people like Lardass, who 
drank castor oil to baptize the rat finks in 
what was hidden deep inside of his guts.  

the adults 
found all of 
the sticker
trading cards
affixed to my
trapper keeper 
which gave me
my first sense of
& pride.

Kevin Ridgeway's latest books are Invasion of the Shadow People (Luchador Press) and A Ludicrous Split 2 (with Gabriel Ricard, Back of the Class Press). His work has appeared in New York Quarterly, Hiram Poetry Review, Gargoyle, Slipstream, Paterson Literary Review, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Main Street Rag, One Art, San Pedro River Reviewand Heavy Feather Review, among others. He lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.