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POETRY / The Patron Saint of Poor Millennials Who Sniff Candles at Anthropologie / Justin Karcher


The last stop before Armageddon is a field of abandoned arcade games
inspired by the worst heartbreaks of your life, where the grass smells
like mint toothpaste & pork rinds, & it makes you feel like you’re at a truck stop
road tripping to a music festival several states away & all you really want
is a Starbucks to drop down from the sky like a hydrogen bomb of espresso

days of being wild, driving under a night sky where the fluoride moon
is always murdering birds with bad beaks while they’re sleeping
so when the sun swims to the surface, everything looks like a dehumanized warzone
birds of every color crumpled like corsages on the side of the road
grey aliens rolling around in the dirt & it really makes you think where did it all go wrong

growing up, you always thought you’d be as tall as lightning in a bottle, so damn electrical
you’d shatter any prison with your brightness & shoot through the clouds in a blaze of glory
it hasn’t worked out the way you had hoped, wasting your wilderness on the American Dream
partying in the gooey lowlands & cutting up napkin monsters, all that talk about howling
where were you when all the broken people in your life built boats out of used razor blades?

they sailed across the hairless sea towards the Promised Land, far away 
from all those brittle-boned assholes who drink blondness like broth
who pull wishbones out of raindrops to make umbrellas they never use
who prance around saying things like, “Why do ice cubes melt… because you’re so hot”
meanwhile your whole world is collapsing & it really makes you think I feel so gone

when you were young, you fell in love with this witch
she’d ride around the bad part of town on the back of a tortoise
there were bullets flying everywhere, a candlelight vigil on every corner
she’d tell you, “The best magic works extremely slow, life does get better” 
back then, you’d stare at a candle’s flame & imagine lava pouring out of washing machines

you spend most your days now wandering around a mall looking like a ghost
you like smelling the candles at Anthropologie, but since you’re broke as fuck
you don’t buy anything, you just snort candles with dumb names, like frosted windowpane 
or pink disco, afterwards you stand in front of the GameStop & just stare, wondering
if the afterlife is really just a run-down house where dead young people play video games

based on their lives for all eternity, how they’re stitched into torturous beanbag chairs
they’re crying all the time, the realization that the smallest choice made the biggest difference
always this close to experiencing the greatest adventure, but didn’t
if you just reached out & touched the world then maybe your heart 
would’ve been more like a cauldron, a volcanic place where passions could freely mix

where you could impact the world with a flick of the wand or twitch of the nose
where you would never have to pilgrimage inward because of old white pilgrims 
mayflowering into your soil & ruining your economy, tangling up your roots
so you never grow like you should, never face the sun with pride in your eyes
so you never shy away from reality or the smell of an unmanufactured future

Justin Karcher is a Pushcart-nominated poet and playwright born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He is the author of several books, including Tailgating at the Gates of Hell (Ghost City Press, 2015). 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.