Sunday, September 11, 2016

Poems By Justin Karcher

Justin Karcher is the author of Tailgating at the Gates of Hell from Ghost City Press, Recent works have been published in 3:AM Magazine, Plenitude Magazine, Foundlings, The Black Napkin, 63Channels and more. He is the editor-in-chief of Ghost City Review. He is the winner of the 2015 Just Buffalo Literary Center members' writing competition. He tweets @Justin_Karcher.

I Like It When the Marlboro Man Calls Me Daddy

So one night I’m scheduled to do a poetry reading
Over at Gypsy Parlor and while walking there
I get a text that reads, “My period
Is so good. I know I am not pregnant.
I feel confident now.” I let the disappointment
Wash over me and flick my cigarette
Down a sewer grate in hopes that it will be
Mutated by radioactive, chemical toxic waste
Into the Marlboro Man and that he’ll climb
Out of the underground and teach me how
To be a man, that he’ll take me by the hand
And show me the skeletons of fossil whales
Uniting and dividing the country like train tracks
Because maybe the American Dream is dead
And we must all come to grips with this tragedy
That the bodies left behind are big and weird
That we should push them back out to sea
And finish the grand experiment once and for all.
My mind wanders a lot. I turn left onto Grant
And see a group of Somali men smoking cigarettes
And laughing in front of a converted funeral home.
Despite all the difficulties, everyone is just trying
To make it. I can’t help but think of those Somali men 
In Minneapolis who were shot while going to a mosque
For Ramadan prayers. An armed white man
Confronted them with insults about their robes
Looking like dresses, pulled out a gun
And began shooting. The story was all over the news
Back in June, pundits declaring that America
Is no longer safe, that there needs to be a change.
When will everyone realize that America
Is composed of all the world’s unanswered prayers
And it’s our responsibility to let them swim in the air
Making music out of silence, to let them convert death
Into something more livable, like Lazarus
Groaning in himself before climbing out of the darkness.
In front of Gypsy Parlor, I flick my cigarette
At a streetlight in hopes that the streetlight is flammable
That it’ll burst into flames, that the wave of light
Spreads through the city like a bubonic plague of passion
That it gobbles up all the insecurity guards denying entry
To the future we deserve, that maybe we can use the flames
To light about 400 million ear candles so every American
Can remove the wax from their ears and understand
The power of effective communication until each
And every one of us can help pregnant pauses give birth
To the words we’re afraid to say. My optimism 
Wanders a lot. Inside Gypsy Parlor, 
I order two shots of whiskey to get me in the mood
As if my words are a spouse I’m not attracted to anymore.
The reading goes well and afterwards I get drunk
And talk about Hemingway and what it used to be like
And it’s all shit, the words coming out of my mouth
But it’s all I know, getting drunk like this
When my tongue becomes an ambulance 
Carrying dead bodies, a history of making out
With anyone standing near me, of confessing my sins
To ATMs and they vomit out my empty penance 
Little slips of paper telling me how much I’ve fucked up.
I’ve somewhat mastered the art of looking casual
While glancing to see if the machine says approved
Or declined. And I want to be a dad? Me of all people?
I talk a big game and my head’s always in the clouds
But I have no idea how to distinguish the difference 
Between natural clouds and the ones that are toxic. 
Empty words contribute to air pollution. Language
Wanders a lot. Walking home from Gypsy Parlor
I see that the Somali men have all gone to bed
And I miss their laughter, the only thing
That was truly alive tonight. I arrive at my house
And the Marlboro Man is sitting on the steps 
And he’s wearing a dress and he looks beautiful
In a cancerous sort of way. He grabs me by the hand
And leads me inside. In my poorly furnished living room
He removes his dress as if to seduce me. His body
Is pregnant with tumors. I put his cowboy hat on
And kiss every baby bump I can find. Afterwards
I tell him to get on his knees and call me daddy.
I think I’m crying, because millions and millions
Of unanswered prayers are swirling all around me
And I start to panic, because I’m not sure which one is mine 
But even if my words are somewhere out there, in that dust cloud
I’m not sure I want to hear them. What I think I want
Wanders a lot and I’m afraid I like it that way. 

Gathering Together Dead Body Parts to Assemble the next President of the United States

It’s summer here so frostbitten crust punks
Are touching themselves in the amber glow
Of backyard bonfires on Buffalo’s
Lower west side. They’re trying to warm up
To the idea that Bernie Sanders will not be
The next President of the United States.
I can hear them weeping and moaning
As I walk up Delavan thinking about my on-again 
Off-again girlfriend. Sometimes I dream 
That I’m Frankenstein and she’s my bandage-wrapped bride
And we’re both composed of dead body parts
From all the people who’ve screwed us over.
I over-romanticize everything, but it’s so important
To be connected to something larger than yourself.
Even in this sea of sadness, choose your battles wisely
And hang on tight. Tonight, I will make love to my on-again
Off-again girlfriend on a bed of Bernie Sanders
For President yard signs and afterwards, we’ll dream
Of better things. It’ll be like necrophilia
And when we wake up, there’ll be snow
On the ground and all this will be lost.

A Beach Party for Animals That Have Gone Extinct

She tried to stab me with a vibrator
I was in the process of moving out
I got the hell out of there
But before leaving I took one of her bottles
Of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
I don’t even like Fireball
But I couldn’t resist the poetry of the moment
A relationship was over and done with
Extinct, as if it was hit by the asteroid
That killed the dinosaurs
In other words, the dinosaurs drank too much fire
I was hoping the whisky would do the same to me
I did really love her
So I drank the entire bottle
And wandered around the city
I must’ve blacked out
Because when I came to
I was on a pretty beach somewhere
Which was strange
Because there are no pretty beaches
Where I come from
I was at a beach party for animals that have gone extinct
There were Neanderthal DJs
Spinning fossil records
On a couple of x-ray turntables
I was grinding up against a wooly mammoth
And tickling its ivory keys
It was the hottest thing I’ve ever done
The music of extinction 
Gets the dance floor moving
I got into a fight with a saber-toothed tiger
And won I pulled out its teeth
With rusted pliers and cried afterwards
The big angry cat was so beautiful
When the sun started to come up
A bunch of dodo birds took flight
And they were holding tiny vibrators
In their weird-looking beaks 
I watched them fly over the water
Where they dropped the vibrators
Like they were sad sex bombs
It was the most amazing thing
I’ve ever seen, not to mention
That dodo birds lost the ability to fly
While they were still alive
So I guess that means 
It takes a little bit of extinction
For us to regain the best parts of ourselves
It filled me with optimism 
Watching those dumb birds fly
Watching those vibrators drown
In the dirty water 
So I guess that means
We shouldn’t focus so much
On pleasuring ourselves
Because if we do 
We’ll just end up drowning alone
That maybe we should focus
On pleasuring the dead things
That are all around us
That maybe we should make sense
Of extinction and hope for the best 
When the sun did finally come up
I was walking to a café
So I could eat an overpriced bagel
And drink lukewarm coffee
And hopefully plan for the rest of my life

We're Living in Closets Full of Snow

“It’s like drilling for oil,” Sam tells me
He’s shoveling snow 
And still wearing those therapy pajamas
With the bottom part of the pants cut
It’s bitter cold out here
Like something out of Game of Thrones
But Sam likes getting frostbite
Says it makes him feel alive
That the freezing of body tissues
Reminds him that he still has a body
And that’s all you can really ask for these days
The backyard is full of glow-in-the-dark junk
A lawn sprinkler douses us in bare-knuckled bourbon
And bruises my spirit but not Sam’s
He has shoveled three times so far tonight
Convinced that there are Vitamin D supplements 
Buried under the snow he tells me that happiness
Flashes suddenly and is gone like how when you fall asleep
In the Rust Belt and there’s no snow but then you wake up
And see that some blizzard painted the ground with its tears
While you were dreaming and Sam dreams a lot
Like he’s Edgar Cayce or something, a lot of times he dreams
Of this small town graveyard full of television sets 
And they’re all tuned in to a live coverage
Of dead men’s stag parties he tells me that testosterone
Is leaving this land but that might be a good thing
He yells at me for falling in love with the same kind of girl
The kind that feels the urge to jump off a bridge all the time
The kind that will probably get postpartum depression
I tell him he’s being sexist and Sam tells me I’m probably right
Sometimes Sam shovels even when there isn’t any snow
One day I’ll cut bathtubs out of his eyes and soak in his speakeasies 
Of sadness and together we’ll hold hands and jump off a bridge
We might be fuck-ups but at least we’re not douchebags
And that’s pretty important, to still give a shit
To still think there’s happiness out there somewhere 

Your Melancholy Is Straight out of an Edith Piaf Song

In Buffalo the love is cheap
A pretty girl wondering what to do
With the dizziness
There’s only so much whiskey I can drink
In hopes that things will get interesting
Or real to the touch

When you black out
Your brain loses its ability to form memories
But your heart gains the ability to spit passion
In all directions
Like a cobra projecting venom from its fangs
When defending itself
I’ll take that trade off every time

And yet there are nights I want to remember
Nights I want to kiss you in the glow 
Of the Buffalo State Hospital
Where the phantoms of psychosis are held down
By the giants of memory
Where birds of feelings
Are always crashing into invisible windows
And their little bodies Hindenburg out of the sky
Until the ground is littered with what appears to be
Dry, dead leaves

Sometimes things fall apart
So that better things can fall together
Sometimes it’s the simplest fucking thing
That makes me happy

Watching you dance in the rain
While I conjure the ghost of Edith Piaf
With a smartphone Ouija board

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