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Jack Ritter Feb 2019
Start with crisp words.
Short ones work best.
Lay them out in lean strips.
Order is important.

Agitate strips slightly.
If result is cloudy,
skim off ****.

Briskly dice some thyme!
Slice a gala lime!
Wasn't that fun?

Now throw out the thyme, the lime, all of it.
Stop chirping.
Where did you think you were?

A few rules of thumb:
     Two layers of meaning is enough.
     Use rhyme sparingly.
     No spurs in the kitchen.

Let the strips ferment in back of mind.
Do not over ruminate.
Entire mix can turn rancid.

Serve as many as possible-
taste can vary widely.
Best when served with Dos Equis.
Aug 2018 · 1.3k
Continental Drift
Jack Ritter Aug 2018
A baby boy shuts his eyes and sees
bull continents drift,
collide, startle, spin around.

Prehistoric bucks suddenly accusing-
(Did YOU just back into ME?)
They jam head-to-head,
gouge, reconcile, then confer.

The boy likes what he sees.

The beasts get down to business.
They iron out earth's future
with special bellows, & lots of musk.

Above this caucus
of nodding, naying heads,
clacking antlers mesh
into a burgeoning thicket.

He calls for more!

The thicket shudders,
sprouts into a dagger forest.

It shoots up recklessly,
like a baby's legs,
and jabs the sky
with young ideas:

New species, struggles, lies.
Whole societies in the air,
too busy to teach their children
about the bellowing below.

           The weight of so much life is too much.

There is a final SNAP
of prehistoric backs.

Not a grain remains on which to carve
the memory of all the things
that passed before this boy's eyes.
A friend called it a Darwinian myth. Highest hurdle was anthropomorphizing continents.
Jack Ritter Jun 2018
Last night I didn't have the backbone
to turn the flat screen off.

The lump in my throat is wimpy.

Act I - Morning Regret.
I am attacked by regret for things
I can't remember.

She helped me with these states of mind
all that summer.
Then she walked out.
That part I remember.

I can't take much more of my eyes.
They're like the button eyes of a doll,
pre-drilled watch pocket spares,
back-breakingly vague and see-through.

I just finished my latest
first half of a self help book.
It promised I could be free
if I were willing to work the 19 steps.

You know the town is dead
when doll eyes go unnoticed.

Act II - Afternoon Regret.
I miss her so much, I could -
I definitely could -
I forget what.

Definition of "depression:"
That familiar, back-of-the-skull,
chock-full-of-neck-muscles all screaming :
"We've got to get out of here-
It's this town, this century, this jacket"

That summer I needed to believe
that we were jointly crazy.
Now I can't recall what she had.

I told her about my obsession
with that stiff knot of muscle
between the shoulders of a bull.
The choice cut that the picadors go for.

She said,
"Maybe you're not as depressed as you think.
Maybe you just have bull shoulders."

Our friends called me "bull shoulders" all summer.
It was so funny!
Actually, they were her friends.

Now I watch CSI,
with such precision eyes,
wasted on all that flatness.

Act III - Family input, and take-away.

Sibling Chorus:
"We're such a loving family,
yet you didn't call Mother AGAIN.
So how's the shoulder bull thing going?"

"Bull shoulders.
And we said we weren't gonna talk about it."

Sibling Chorus:
"Ok, so did you get the book we sent:
Beat Depression in Minutes while you Sleep?"

"She PROMISED she was crazy."
I've worked on this one many many hours, over many years.
Mar 2018 · 413
Crystal Radio
Jack Ritter Mar 2018
I once ordered a crystal radio
from my Johnson and Smith catalog
is what it said
just the energy of the radio waves themselves
leaping off the sharpened spike
atop some clandestine tower
spreading out in spherical shells
stretched so thin by now there couldn't be
and yet there was
enough electromagnetic "stuff"
to agitate the antenna wire
enough to tickle the cats-whisker pin
which poked the germanium crystal
just so
and a highly wound spool
of baby's hair wire
would tune to a station at night
with a guy who made puns
and talked about nothing
through the plug in my ear
which trickle of sound
transfixed a boy's head
to his pillow
all night
me at 14.
Mar 2018 · 551
Jack Ritter Mar 2018
"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
- W. B. Yeats:  The Second Coming


Bred to burrow after badgers,
what's he doing here?

Terrorizing the underwear
behind my couch.

Is he a true hund,
or just a pan-fried sausage
with a Bluto chest?

I wonder what they called him
back then, in the Black Forest,
when dogs were dogs.

Tracker? Hunter?
Try: Baron Von Putt-Putt Tootsie Roll.

I'm Scot myself.
My people once sacked York.

No, this isn't York.
It's Plano, Texas.

Don't think a Dachshund and a Scot
can't sack Dallas from here.

Until then, we play our little game:
What rough ****** slouches toward my underwear?
Our funny little Frank
Mar 2018 · 731
Divine Trinity
Jack Ritter Mar 2018
Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva -
sit eternally on lotuses.

Shiva loves to destroy the universe.
He has as many arms as it takes.
Plus one, to hold a mirror.

Brahma rebuilds it all as needed.
He has four heads and four arms.
That seems about right.

Sitting between Big Bang and Big Finish
is blue Vishnu,
who symbolizes energy.

Iris and Murray Klughart of Yonkers
don't symbolize anything.
Neither do their children.

All their marriage the Klugharts have saved
for a trip to the Taj Mahal.
Each one secretly fears
the other will be disappointed.

They pray their kids will have more.

Iris lights up the place when anyone calls.
Murray lights up a dreadful cigar,
sits back like a living room ornithologist,
and fully hears her song.

The creature is in full cackle.
He'll tell her about his bad MRI -


They are no one,
and their aching backs
prop up every axis,
and out-of-work deity.

Iris cries when she reads Emily Dickinson.
Iris laughs in her sleep.

The Klugharts loved the Taj so much,
Shiva dropped his mirror.
(originally published in Red River Review.)
Jack Ritter
Aug 2017 · 363
Remembering to Sing
Jack Ritter Aug 2017
Remembering to Sing.   Jack Ritter

If every deaf mute fell at once
into the singing seas,

what rhyming tremolos they'd plumb
from hoarding whales and siren thieves.

We'd fetch their choral fugues with nets
of woven unforgetfulness,

and to this deaf and dreamless Earth,
restore Her songs and memories.

  -- --
First published in Austin International Poetry Festival Anthology, 2008.
Apr 2017 · 367
little hearts
Jack Ritter Apr 2017
there's singing at
the bottom of the lake!
i plunge down
with ringing ears

through algae membranes
wobbly chasms of sound
at the bottom is
a singing bubble
filled with hearts

i pop my face inside
the ringing stops

a thousand tiny faces turn and smile
they are the saddest pocket orchestra
they've sung away their lives
in fragile bodies shaking

now their glass viola hearts
are breaking

a thousand throats trill out
the final verse:
we are dying
please don't look away
Apr 2017 · 195
Jack Ritter Apr 2017
we swam for joy
all summer long

lived in the lake
contesting dive rank

who had the wettest

cannon ball
broadest swan
sharpest jack

the underwater distance competition!
you sink like a stone
shovel your feet into the muck

crank like a panzer through honey
eighty seconds later
pop up way out there

our twelve year old bodies
cavorted slithered swam
through rising storms and setting suns

summer put there for us to inhale
then pound on one another like gorillas

suddenly it was back-to-school
while we were learning to borrow a one
our minnow natures died
My childhood in Hartland, WI.

— The End —