person Justin Karcher, two poems

Justin Karcher is a poet and playwright born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He is the author of Tailgating at the Gates of Hell (Ghost City Press, 2015), the chapbook When Severed Ears Sing You Songs (CWP Collective Press, 2017), the micro-chapbook Just Because You’ve Been Hospitalized for Depression Doesn’t Mean You’re Kanye West (Ghost City Press, 2017), Those Who Favor Fire, Those Who Pray to Fire (EMP, 2018) with Ben Brindise, and Bernie Sanders Broke My Heart and I Turned into an Iceberg (Ghost City Press, 2018). He is also the editor of Ghost City Review and co-editor of the anthology My Next Heart: New Buffalo Poetry (BlazeVOX [books], 2017). He tweets @Justin_Karcher.

***the below poems are part of a project which also includes the poets Kristin Garth and Tianna Grosch***


The Unfamiliar Music of Mermaids in Snow Globes

This one time I was wandering in a different hemisphere
came across a seaside pawnshop on a Japanese isle
the man there was selling these hypnotic snow globes
inside each snow globe was a tiny mermaid crying out for freedom
when you shook it, the mermaid’s eyes would flare up with hope
it was quite beautiful, thinking your optimism is what cracks glass
thinking your dreams of the future breaks the bars of your cage
the demented pawnbroker told me the mermaids were only taking naps
naps with their eyes open, naps that would protect them until the world was a better place
naps that lead to maps, maps that you wear on your feet to get you to where you need to go
because the world right now doesn’t understand beauty
doesn’t understand the delicacies of curves you can’t feel
we must turn the living into ghosts and tear down the houses that haunt them
then we must take that rubble, grind it into dust
use the dust to make skins that the ghosts will wear and be alive again
I was blown away, the idea of shrinking beautiful things to hide them from an ever-growing ugly
an ugly world always looking for them, always looking to straitjacket their lip-breaths
always looking to shove their sunset slides into a sanitarium of stillness
I turned the pawnbroker into a starfish, shoved him into a cannon and shot him at the sky
now he’s a part of a constellation that whips fishermen and young lovers into frenzy
I really hope he thanks me, I really hope he appreciates the glow I stuck him to
after I disposed of him, I took all the mermaids in snow globes and one day I’ll let them loose
into bathtubs of flower spit
or maybe an antidepressant lake of rock where all the tears have hardened
maybe that’s why I shrunk down the dancer, used magic to confuse that girl with disloyal hair
I never thought it would work, these shrinking spells, but they did
and now here we are
the naked dancer who shrank through her clothes
sleeping in the master bedroom on the top floor of my dollhouse
the girl with the changing hair starting at a wall in the basement
I have to ask myself, “Am I a monster?
Am I a sociopath? Should the world get rid of me?
Why hasn’t it yet?”
I don’t have time for such questions or maybe it’s all a lie and I’m scared of the truth
anyway, I should get a tiny brush for the one
something classy for the other
maybe the choker with the velvet collar
with a cameo
the one of Medusa with the snakes
the snakes that look like wings
I’ll put her in it, maybe she’ll like that
it’s funny how big your fingers are when your world gets smaller
they run like monsters across hardwood floors
they shake like an earthquake, a song you think you’ve heard before
but you can’t remember the title and you worry you’ll take that mystery to the grave


Orphan Dust, Stardust and Angel Dust

I never planned for any of this and I know that sounds like a cheap way out
but it’s the truth and now there’s this tiny dancer hiding in a dollhouse armoire
now there’s a woman in the basement dancing with herself as if in a trance
I gave her a single rose and I don’t know why, maybe an exit strategy or one last dance
but she didn’t budge, maybe a mirror on the wall I couldn’t see or maybe I’m losing it
the one in the dollhouse is frightened to death, I’m not sure why I even made her small
I didn’t think it would even work, magic is strong, but it’s getting weaker by the day
I’m probably dying, I don’t know even know old I am, one last gasp before the ocean
becomes an obituary, before tenderness gives way to sandpaper, before bone betrays flesh
and marrow betrays bone and the yesterdays in our brains suffocates the tomorrows
in our hearts, when there’s no future anymore, just pyramids, strip malls and cafes
just orphan dust, stardust and angel dust, a splattering of regret on the painter’s canvas
no more enchantment, just a long walk through the dark until we’re done, what to do
but shrink a bouquet into something she can grasp, maybe then she’ll see I’m not all that bad
present her with that haunted cameo, put it around her neck, maybe a nightgown for her to wear
this isn’t the wilderness, no Genesis aftertaste, no purity in exposure, this is a world
where cruel men still pull the strings, obsessed with vulnerable things, nothing left to share
I thought I was different, now I’m not so sure, she’s frightened in the armoire
she probably thinks I’m a monster, why did I concoct a drink that makes beauty small?
why didn’t I die centuries ago? An orphan like me should never have lasted this long
I got ambitious with magic and now feel bad about it, I should be burning in hell, gone
like the empires of old, her tears will be the end of me, as it should, can I turn this all good?
and the one in the basement is staring at the wall, not really a basement, more like a dungeon
where I store all my hungers that have imprisoned me, not really a dungeon, more like a museum
where I store all my possessions, artifacts from golden ages, fairytale taxidermy, oh nonexistence
aquariums and kiddie pools full of water from rivers that don’t exist anymore, mermaids
having parties in the bellies of dead whales, blood-covered turntables plucked from pirate ships
whatever down there should eventually see the light of day, newborn babies in a million cribs
I can’t horde all the beauty that’s left in this dying world, but who else will protect it?
no government in any hemisphere, certainly no politicians straddling equators, priests who perish
bros who bludgeon, and what of the orphans of today? tattooed onto flash drives, digitally lost
abandoned by history and floating like ghosts through the pages of spell books, new ghosts
fossilized ghosts, poets below the earth, supermodels on high and here we all are and it’s hard
trying to keep the light alive, having to do the tough thing to make the goodness last, I ache


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