‘Two Poems’ by Justin Karcher


The Patron Saint of Law Students Who Want to Change the World

There are microscopic radio stations
stitched into every American flag in town
you can’t see them, but they’re there
broadcasting an endless series of encoded messages
“this is the law of the land”
or “no one cares if you live or die”

one day, well-meaning law students lose their minds
because of the hopelessness
they break into janitorial closets
in downtown office buildings
they take all the mop heads
& rub them in piles of bad cocaine
until they kinda look like powdered wigs
then they put on the wigs
& march to the sea to start a revolution
but it’s not really the sea
just a large parking lot
that’s been painted blue & covered in salt
suddenly their well-made plans unravel
before their very eyes

so they gather their frustrations
& take aim with stylus pens
they pretend to shoot seagulls
walking along the beach
looking for taco scraps
but it’s not really the beach
just a small strip of sandpaper stapled together
they get on their hands & knees
& touch the imposter sand
they ask one another
“When was the last time you touched sandpaper?”
they all agree that it’s been awhile
that it’s probably similar to intimacy
that you kinda forget how it feels
& when you touch somebody you actually like
it feels totally weird
like you’re not meant to do it

after some awkward silence
they take a motorcade of Ubers to Target
where they loudly cry
while wandering through Dorm Room Essentials
they sit on cheap couches & kiss the air
at invisible friends that were once flesh
they ask one another
“Remember when making out on a couch
was the best thing ever?”
they all agree that tongues don’t taste the same
that it’s probably similar to a lobotomy
that you kinda forget you miss something
until you find out that somebody took it away
that when we sleep
there must be a concerted effort
from a hungry memory vampire
who sticks straws in our ears
& sucks out the small memories
that mean the world to us

the law students are losing
their collective mind
they buy all the pillows, X-Acto knives
& Elmer’s glue at Target
they go into the parking lot
& start cutting up all the pillows
they ask one another
“We need all the feathers
do pillows even have feathers anymore?”
they all agree that it’s best to be optimistic these days
that it’s the only way to fly
they take off their shirts
& whatever feathers they do find
they glue to their shoulder blades
they try to fly
but don’t get very far
so they sit on the asphalt
& wonder what to do next
they tell one another
“Let’s sue evolution
because we never sprouted wings
let’s sue the American dead
that still control the land
their voices do terrible things
let’s sue the night air
for turning us into terrible lovers
all we know are flings”

by nightfall, there are law students
jamming X-Acto knives in their ears
& when their blood hits the ground
well-meaning flowers bloom from the asphalt
& they spend all their nectar
trying to save a dying sun
but eventually they realize
no one else cares if it lives or dies
so they go into debt
deeper into dirt
& wither away

but no one weeps for them

The Patron Saint of Valedictorians Who Become Junkies

All over America
they’re reciting the speeches
they wrote years ago

standing behind makeshift podiums
in vacant lots
where their high schools used to be

the broken glass
the deflated basketballs
but they’re still optimistic

they were supposed to be
the saviors of their families
straight-A students

who crafted science fair volcanos
out of old beehives
and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

using rusty box cutters
cutting open each Cheeto
draining lava from its crunch

then taking all the sting
from their families’ backyards
and stacking it like a mountain

the heat of their potential
melting the hallucinogenic honey
on the lips of everyone around them

but something went wrong

look, no matter where you’re from
there’s always a fistful of scarecrows
aimed at your heart

nights of waking up
in abandoned libraries
surrounded by piles of dusty old books

and dirty underwear
still searching for the right words
that can undress the world