Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell and other poems - Justin Karcher (Ghost City Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell and other poems.  Justin Karcher.  Ghost City Press.  Syracuse, New York.  2015.

Tailgating In Hell To Snowmen With No Snow, Poetry From The Mind Of Justin Karcher

Although the cover of Justin Karcher's Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell and other poems may be the worst we have ever seen we here at Today's book of poetry do not judge a book by its cover.  Good thing.

Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell and other poems is an energetic and enthusiastic rantish ramble with no seat belts, bad brakes and a foot-to-the-floor mentality.  Karcher is from the more is more school of thought and these poems rampage over the pages like Ti Jean in that Columbia backfield before that broken leg.

We're Worse than Frankenstein's Monster

The one night, Sam and I are pretty drunk on the Champagne
Of Beers. We aren't really talking or anything,
But the silence is cracked open like an egg
When I foolishly reach for a can of beer and Sam says,
"Sorry, I drank it all," callously and inconsiderate.
"Come on Sam, " I say, "I chipped in on the beer."
I want to punch him in his lax face; you have like no idea,
But I quickly forgive him. "Eh, it's ok," I say. "This beer tastes
Like blood and nickels anyway." Sam is quiet like Tibet
And I wonder if he took some monkish vow of silence.
His mind must be on other things, like Russia invading Ukraine
Or how ISIS is recruiting fellow hipsters from England.
Blood will be spilled and here we are,
Drunk in front of Advance Auto Parts
Like we always are on Tuesdays,
Trying to reassemble our bodies,
Hoping we've put together stronger and happier.
Suddenly, Sam throws his can and says, "Shit man,
The world really is a hospital made of snow.
It's always melting, falling apart. No cure really lasts."
Ever since his near-death experience at 17,
Sam's been obsessed with death.
The moon's out, so I try changing the subject.
"You ever look at the moon
And think it's some tongue-tied piano,
Like deep down you know that
Cratered cue ball has a song just for you.
But it's been quiet, eerily quiet, so you wonder
When God's gonna shoot it in the corner pocket?"
There's no answer.
Sam must not be speaking again. Well, one day,
Sam and I will break into Advance Auto Parts
And steal from their superior selection of jumper cables,
So we can jumpstart our lives.

...

Karcher's sidekick Sam is the perfect foil to the deadpan and nonplussed world these poems navigate. Justin Karcher is never trying to mount a formal front, he has great stories to tell and settles into a conversational tone.  Karcher is also a playwright and many of these poems could be monologues, they certainly can be theatrical.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

Today's book of poetry likes to see a little chaos theory in action and Tailgating... is all about that.

There's more than enough vibrant energy in Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell and other poems to start any poetry engine.  It certainly revved things up in here this morning at the reading.  Milo and Kathryn did their usual stints, both of them are getting better at it every day.  Even Bruce from shipping and our receptionist Jane read poems this morning.  That was a first.

Bruce surprised us three different way from Sunday, this was his selection:

The Only Casanova in This Dead Country

"She was so hot," Sam says. "It was like she was blasting out
chunks of magma. When we finished, the whole apartment looked
like Pompeii. Anyway -  how'd you do with your lucky lady?"

I light up a cigarette and think for a moment.

"I was depressed the next day. Does that answer your question?"

"You tellin' me you didn't make a formaldehyde fetus?"

"Oh we had unprotected sex. I don't know. Something doesn't sit
well inside."

Sam puts his hand on my chest. "There's nothing comfortable
inside that heart of yours," he says, "It's an abandoned
archaeological site. Like America."

...

Karcher's hard edged romanticism has an extremely sharp point on the end of his blade.  Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell and other poems is all hard surface, crusty demeanor, but that is fine.  Today's book of poetry doesn't mind.  We like kick in the ass poems from time to time.

There's some Kerouac in here, some Bukowski bloodline running through Karcher's pen and you all know what we think of those two here.

Snow Angels Going to Their First AA Meeting

2-something in the morning
I've been drinking for 16 years
I suppose that means my alcoholism can get a driver's license
Does my loss of appetite regarding just about everything
Imply that I'm not beastly
Or am I making out with depression again?
Buffalo night, how you shove that Janus mask on my hormones
I either masturbate my tragedies away or cry out comedies
Living on the bipolar Rust Belt
And my cat's carrying a toy in her mouth
And meowing like an orchestra in heat
TV tells me ancient aliens played Russian roulette
With our DNA & here I am smoking real cigarettes
Because ecigs are like a daydream & I want the real thing
Fantasy & celibacy ain't for me, not here
So I go outside & collect rain drops in a jelly jar
& drip them on the living room floor in the shape of an angel
Like I'm Pollock because when feeling freezes over
those raindrops will be a snow angel.

...

Although constantly buoyed by unrealistic hopes and dreams there is no way out for anyone in Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell and other poems.  It all reminds us here at Today's book of poetry of the comic/tragic and legendary Canadian film by Bruce MacDonald, "Hard Core Logo."  There is the same innocent nihilism in ethic and style.  Plenty of broken bottles for every broken dream.

And then there is that heroic YAWP, the one that keeps moving us forward.  Catch this while it is still on fire.
Tailgating In Hell To Snowmen With No Snow, Poetry From The Mind Of Justin Karcher
Justin Karcher

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Karcher is a playwright and poet living in Buffalo, N.Y. He is the Co-Artistic Director of Theater Jugend as well as its Playwright-in-Residence. His recent works have been published in 3:AM Magazine, The Buffalo News, Plentitude Magazine, Melancholy Hyperbole, and more. He is the recent winner of the 2015 Just Buffalo Literary Center member's writing competition.
He tweets @Justin_Karcher.

Justin Karcher
reads his poem All Balloons Must Pop, All Animals Must Die
from his collection Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell and other poems
Live at Milkie's on Elmwood
10-18-15


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