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Poem: When Shipwrecks Enter the Bloodstream

“I was horrified and soul-crushed recently by the 8 heroin/fentanyl overdoses in a 12-hour span and wrote the following poem.” – Justin Karcher

Poet: Justin Karcher

Tonight the sky flows over Buffalo, NY
Like a river of wasps that you have to inhale deeply.
I’m stung by the splendor of a sudden emptiness
When I step out the door clutching a flask filled to the shoulders

With the 50-million-year-old sperm I found at the bottom of Lake Erie.
In a few short hours, I’ll be drunk on the prehistoric abandonment
Finally courageous enough to scratch the rash of heroin overdoses.
Tearing apart the city but in the end I’ll just make it worse.

All my friends are dead, their eyes have rusted beyond repair.
It’s nights like these that I dig up their veins and link them together
Like American interstates. I motorcycle my memory along
Their compass needles but I’m afraid there’s no direction home.

When I die, I’m not sure what Buffalo I’ll choose to remember,
The litter box metropolis where my fibrillated mother maneuvers
Through asteroid fields to rescue brain-dead cats or maybe the
Buffalo where stilt-souled teens crawl into jukebox coffins

Hoping the music of the afterlife will help get their rhythm back.
Anything it takes to get them dancing. Anything to make us feel
Alive again. These are nights of walking over battered bodies
Looking for a place to sleep in all the wrong places,

Then the whole world changes without changing you.
These are nights of sitting on rocks and staring at the water
As Great Lakes shipwrecks come back to life more powerful
Than ever before. I can feel them slithering through the pipes

In our bodies taking us down from the inside. Sometimes it works.
Sometimes I feel so sad about the state of things that I vomit out
Pregnancy ultrasound photos, desperate to begin again
Where it all began, when the ships in our bloodstreams

Weren’t wrecked beyond repair by the catastrophe of living,
When they were still beautiful and noble and glittering
And setting sail for the new world, a flotilla of lip locked kingdoms
Ready to love at a moment’s notice whenever the wind blows.


Written by Justin Karcher

Justin Karcher is currently working from home. Since he is no longer spending time getting to and from work, he is finding some extra time to work on his poetry.

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