Some choice cuts from

The Ghosts of Our Words Will be Heroes in Hell,

the latest book project by




Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner!  /  Jason Ryberg

The wind is whipping up
little cyclones of dust and leaves
in the ditch by the side of Old 40 HWY,

and there’s a star-shine gleam
to the chrome ball-hitch
of the pick-up truck in front of me,

and there’s road-side fences to the future,
telephone poles to the past,

and the sun, like a cyclop’s murder-red eye
is climbing up from behind the horizon
and right into my driver’s-side
rear-view mirror,

and Walk, Don’t Run by the Ventures
is playing now on the radio

and there, above it all,
a lone falcon or hawk sits, calmly,
surveying its little fiefdom from the top
of a billboard sign that reads,

Beef, it’s what’s for dinner!

You got that right, pal.



When You’re Poor  /  Damian Rucci

when you’re poor
you’re always fucking
or fighting

always fucking because there
is never anything to do
but thrust & moan

when that’s done
then you’re fighting
fighting to keep the lights on

fighting to keep the bills paid
fighting to find change to do the laundry
& fighting with the landlord
about that fifty bucks
he’s still missing

but it could be worse
you could always be waiting again
waiting for the electricity company
to finally kill the lights

waiting for that check to hit
the mail box
waiting for the winds to blow
luck your way for once



The Finger Has Got to Come Off  /  John Dorsey

crazy mark crushes his finger
in the back of a dump truck

instead of going to the hospital
he examines the bone

each angle
like the rings on a tree

each crack
a ridge of undiscovered country

clues to a past
that even he can’t quite recall

weeks go by
and the skin
just won’t heal

he says he’ll have to
cut the meat off himself
before it starts to stink
like a dying animal
left to rot
in the woods.



Lost Man’s Candle / Victor Clevenger

standing at the end of a cold day
we think about how it is always here
in some form good for a glow
hanging from a rope
tied to a breeze

it’s a lost man’s candle
the moon

creating the dull between the trees
branch’s shadows like arms reaching out
for a waist to grasp in dance
& we’re near

but there is no melody left in our breath
tonight     & there is no whistle
from the lips of the wind either

just the random cries of wild animals
that we’ve all heard
a thousand times before

as we stood there like fools

too fucking stubborn
to just find

a good path back home



The Ghosts of Our Words Will Be Heroes in Hell is available from OAC Books, and can be ordered via or by contacting any of the poets on Facebook.



About the Authors:

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 Salina, KS 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.

Damian Rucci is a writer and author of five poetry books including his latest Don’t Call it a Relapse (Punk Provincial Press 2019), founder of the Poetry in the Port reading series, and was a Poet in Residence at the Osage Arts Community in Belle, Missouri. He can be contacted at @damianrucci on Twitter and

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) and Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize.He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at

Victor Clevenger spends his days in a Madhouse and his nights writing poetry. Selected pieces of his work have appeared in print magazines and journals around the world. He is the author of several collections of poetry including Sandpaper Lovin’ (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2017), A Finger in the Hornets’ Nest (Red Flag Poetry, 2018), and Corned Beef Hash By Candlelight (Luchador Press, 2019). Together with American poet John Dorsey, they run River Dog.

“Blue Collar Blues: The Poetry of Wayne F. Burke”



Blue Collar Blues:

The Poetry of Wayne F. Burke

By Arthur Hoyle


Wayne F. Burke is a populist poet living in central Vermont, where he works as a Licensed Practical Nurse. His biography on Amazon tells us that he was born in 1954 in a small Massachusetts manufacturing town. His father had served in the U.S. Marine Corps before becoming the manager of a Mobil Flying-A gas station, and his mother worked in a textile mill. Both his parents died while he was a boy, and he and his three siblings were raised by their paternal grandparents and an uncle. He graduated from Goddard College in 1979 with a degree in Regional and Urban Planning, then took to the road, traveling around the country, working in a variety of occupations unrelated to his degree, and writing. He began publishing his poetry in 2013, when he was fifty-nine years old.

It is not surprising that a poet of such blue-collar origins would write blue collar poems, notable for their blunt honesty, visceral imagery, and gritty situations à la Bukowski. But what really distinguishes Burke, for me, is his persistent use of a deadpan irony that brings both humor and surprise to scenes and situations with dark and often malevolent undertones.  This signature attitude, or tone, he uses with skilled effect to jolt his reader into a state of awareness⎯one of the high aims of all art. To sample his unique style and technique, and hear his plain, unpretentious voice, read Escape from the Planet Crouton (Luchador Press, 2019), under review here. 

A glance at the titles of the poems in this collection reveals that we are in the presence of a poet of the ordinary and the everyday, the world of highways, farms, tattoos, naps, raindrops, firecrackers, speeding tickets, seedy bars, and sordid streets. But a feral, menacing reality lurks below the surface of this world. The tattoo is worn by an employer who fires the speaker of the poem for coming to work drunk. The tattoo is the number branded on the employer’s arm by his captors in a World War II concentration camp. “Raindrops on the eaves/sound like a beautiful/loneliness,” the poet lyrically writes, but we learn immediately that he is listening to them to escape “her/talking/ in the darkened room,/high on medication/or on . . ./whatever.” The “Nap” is not a restful snooze on a cozy couch; it is the sleep of the homeless narrator in an empty parking lot behind a credit union, “the curb stone a hard cushion/but welcome one.”

Burke’s sensory language immerses the reader in this dreary underworld. “Polio” is not about polio. It describes a Halloween prank perpetrated in his boyhood by the narrator and his friend Charlie, who “stripped the thorny pulp off horse chestnuts/and put the ebony nuts into/a brown shopping bag/and threw the nuts that night/Halloween/at the Camel’s house across the street/until cops came with their shining blue/light.” Aged seven, the narrator runs away from his harsh home “down the road/along cracked and gouged sidewalk/a quarter mile to the lime kiln/loud waterfall-roar of machinery/white dust in the air and/smoky white buildings,/trucks banging along the highway/over railroad tracks.” The stubby lines with their short rhythms throb a relentless drumbeat of despair.

Many of Burke’s poems locate the reader in a scene or situation and tell a story. The stories are often edged with irony and morbid resignation. The runaway boy, frightened by a chained German Shepherd watchdog that barks at him, hightails it home to discover that “Nobody there knew that I had been gone,” a line that hints at his neglect and loneliness. While working with a highway maintenance crew he waves at a female high school classmate who drives by in her Cadillac without acknowledging him. In another incident as an adult, he tries to escape homelessness by staying in a room at the YMCA, but gives up when he cannot think of a name to enter in the “in case of emergency notify” box on the registration form. Loneliness and alienation are persistent themes in the collection. In the final poem, titled ungrammatically “It a Lie,” the speaker insists “I will never/be in need/never cry/at night/not me/not me/I am/different/breed of/liar.”

Escape from the Planet Crouton is arranged into eight sections, several of which have a clear organizing principle, but nearly all of which give voice to the speaker’s sense of isolation from the people and society around him. The first section, which opens with the epigraph “the clapboard Inn/My grandfather owned⎯/marble in the dream,” deals with the narrator’s childhood upbringing in a severe, loveless home. The next section covers his high school and college years, marked by heavy drinking, brushes with the law, and glimpses of the rawness in the wider world. There is a section on his turbulent relationships with women, including a very funny dialogue with “The Old Lady” (his wife), and scattered poems about his health and drinking problems.

An exception to the pattern is Section 3, which is prefaced by the meditative lines “busy/all/morning/watching/the/clouds,” a lead-in to poems about art and artists, where Burke finds salvation from the drabness of his ordinary existence. His portrait of Van Gogh is especially moving as it honors “canvases/like portals so vast/and deep/with emptiness/nothing could fill them/but/eternity.” He also writes about Kurt Schwitters, Jackson Pollock (“a momma’s boy”), fellow poets he met in college, and his progenitor Charles Bukowski, “a misanthrope and/hater of the herd.” Henry Miller gets a mention too.

The poem “I Write for the Factory Workers” sums up this poet’s artistic sensibility and mission, and so I quote it here in full to give the reader an undiluted dose of Wayne F. Burke.

I Write for the Factory Workers

the bums,
the burn-outs
the renegades who
left town and never returned,
the unmarried
the unheralded,
lumpen and prole
who never made the honor roll
in High School
never were handed a job
or a promotion
or a trophy,
but got probation,
an eviction notice,
a Dear John letter,
a court summons,
a pink slip,
a knuckle sandwich,
a room in a nut house,
a ride in the paddy wagon,
a jail sentence,
divorce papers,
bad acid,
food poisoning,
herpes simplex,
and hangovers that
lasted for days.

It remains to ponder the significance of the title of this volume, and the design of its cover, which pictures a pink and yellow science fiction rocket ship zooming across the star-filled night sky. At the start of Section 5, Burke tells us that “in Croutonville everyone is guilty/until they prove themselves innocent;/the bums gather in the park,/and hot-rodders roar up and down/the empty streets;/dogs bark at all hours/of the spot-lit nights,/and the primary cause of death/is O.D.”

Croutonville sounds very much like the hollowed-out core of the American dream of which so many are now dispossessed. Burke has made his escape in the rocket ship of poetry.


Escape from the Planet Crouton is available via Luchador Press


About the Author, Arthur Hoyle: I am the author of The Unknown Henry Miller: A Seeker in Big Sur (Skyhorse/Arcade March 2014). I have also published essays in Huffington PostEmpty MirrorAcross the Margin, and Counterpunch. My second non-fiction book, Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain, was published March 17, 2020 by Sunbury Press.