Before my teeth were swampy gemstones, I was but a boy begging for scraps on the outskirts of some walled city here was the mighty city with its musclemen and gutter nuns here was the mighty city with its garbage trucks and concert halls the songs the police sing when they beat desert into rain what firefighters sing as they shove candles into graves here was the mighty city mangling widows with debt and cobblestone here was the mighty city shattering windows with bathtub bones here were glittering streets lined with hollow cars and wedding cakes here were cemeteries disguised as condos where parents went missing here was the mighty city disguised as a childless chariot going nowhere here was the mighty city with its toilet paper and rooftops pissing here were flesh dungeons disguised as preschools crying everywhere here was the mighty city that threw out orphans like me, away from fake light into the asphalt waste where we chewed on deaf dandelions that never heard our cries begging whatever to give us flowers and not weeds, anything but impossible seeds we would build giant beds out of animal fur and trampoline guts but never fall asleep bouncing up and down toward the snores of stars never awake to give us our dreams here was the mighty city that would send out planes dropping lawnmowers and Red Bull here were the orphans sticking their fingers into the machinery and praying for wings death was everywhere back then, we were cast out like autumn leaves cast out when chill burns out the roots, we had no trees that branched us into air so we untangled kites from bug hair and dreamed up a wind that looked like home searching for the words that could swerve chaos into health, ground without the shakes here was the modern age, but all the calendars were fakes and all the clocks secondhand so time moved like broken men, sluggish from sunrise to sunset then they dropped like flies we were the orphans that turned maggots into magic, scissors to the sky and never look back
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.