Original price was: $15.00.Current price is: $12.00.

poems by

Chuck Rybak

Poetry book, 92 pages. Cover price: $15

($12 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-397-9

Release date: April 23, 2013.


Chuck Rybak

Chuck Rybak grew up in Buffalo, New York, and earned his PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati in 2003. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in: The Cincinnati Review, Verse Wisconsin, The Fourth River, The Ledge, Pebble Lake Review, Southern Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Hobart, Wisconsin with his wife, fiction writer Rebecca Meacham, and their daughters, Gwendolyn and Madelyn. His first chapbook, Nickel and Diming My Way Through, won Wind’s Quentin R. Howard prize. His second chapbook, Liketown, was released by Pudding House Publications. Tongue and Groove, a full-length poetry collection, was released by Main Street Rag in 2007. Chuck is a Professor of the Humanities, English, and Creative Writing for the University of Wisconsin Colleges-Green Bay.


Warmongerers beware: here comes Chuck Rybak to “kick you in the balls one stunning flower at a time.” A brilliantly controlled yet wildly free-falling exploration of the violence that has come to define our most innocent of moments, </war> is disarming in every sense of the word. From a “virulent bitch outbreak at the daycare” to “dusty westerns” with their “wide-brimmed bullshit,” this is Chuck Rybak at his sardonic best: funny, fierce, edgy, epic, witty and oh so wonderful.

–Cathryn Cofell


These poems are ground reports from a generation whose grandparents fought in World War II or Korea, whose parents faced Vietnam, and whose own adult lives have been colored by a seemingly endless train of conflicts from the Persian Gulf through Iraq and Afghanistan. Domestic and political, funny, sad, and sharp, Chuck Rybak’s lyric explorations illuminate the interwoven textures of our lives. </war> is an account and an accounting, a book that merges craft, insight, and responsibility.

–Don Bogen

What I Did During the Wars
Collateral Damage

We’ve shot an amazing number of people.

–General Stanley McChrystal,
discussing the “escalation of force problem”
and civilian casualties in Afghanistan.


Let us clothe this fact in frogs
fleeing from mower blades, one tense margin
to the next until tall grass touches road.
The frogs live peacefully and do not ruin
the yard with burrows, dining on the mosquitoes
I despise. Yet I must cut down the wild lawn
and can only witness so much, can only pause
so long before the work powers on.
We’ve shot an amazing number of people.
May I say that in a poem about mowing
the lawn with frogs the pastoral collateral?
May I include the monstrous B-52s stretching
overhead, as long as sky, and leave out the yard birds
who land and gorge, sated by my little wars?



Reports indicate a virulent bitch outbreak
at the daycare, code-red profanity scare.
The plague began in a clan of four-year olds,
whose hot-zone words flew deadly-virus airborne,
jumping across the room
to six circular kids on their butts who chanted
Bitch-Bitch-Bitch like they were playing Duck-Duck-Goose.
Horrified come pick-up time,
we parents caught a whiff of bitch
and demanded our TinyTown spin
the sirens, bus in the hazmat crew,
their press conference of proof and containment:
We have scrubbed their little mouths with soap
and hosed them down from head to shoe.
We assure you, they will eat vegetables tonight.

Such epidemics take me back to high school,
the outbreak of bitches that attacked
the student body, two thousand strong.
This Newtonian curse-word universe
saw bitches who could neither be created nor destroyed,
saw bitch actions have equal,
opposite bitch reactions
until every orbiting bitch was caught
in the bold gravity of exponential maternity:
“I’m not a bitch. Your momma’s a bitch.”
The science of that Babylon was all wrong:
My mother is not a bitch,
she is old-school divinity
who makes Moses look lazy.
A mystery, mother lived
immune from all bitchy
outbreaks—a walking, talking,
white blood cell
without the proper mouth to form
four letter words (or five,
when keeping bitch in mind).
She never spoke curse words
of any kind, not one
that I can recall. She merely
parted the Red Sea
of her family’s profanity, then marched
her matriarchal self away
from our frog-filled mouths,
our language scarfed with locusts,
marched into freedom, into lands
of linguistic milk and honey.
We children had no choice but to follow
through fields of gee wizz and golly,
through row upon row of awshucks
into orchards where we plucked willikers
right from their weighty branches—
with full bellies we rejected
the unclean, cast them out
preaching I don’t give a hoot
because you’re a giant horse’s patoot.
But I am no such prophet.
I cinch my daughters in their seats,
their lips still wet with bitch,
drown them on the way home
in wave after wave of
Thou shalt not
Thou shalt not


If you would like to read more of </war> by Chuck Rybak, order your copy today.


SKU: 978-1-59948-397-9 Category: Tag: