photo of Scrabble letters that spell out "cold sore"

Two Poems by Justin Karcher

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The Last Time I Was Really Happy, Emilio Estevez Was Coaching Peewee Hockey

Yesterday, while I was on my usual midnight pilgrimage,
I was suavely walking down Richmond Ave.
When I heard the quacking of ducks.

I looked all around and didn’t see anything –
And yet, the quacking persisted
I assumed there was a springtime V in the sky I didn’t see.

It sounded like a resurrection symphony
And as I lit up a cigarette, I thought of Dan McKeon
And his poem about ducks, depression and rigor mortis burritos.

It brought a smile to my face
Knowing there’s so much interesting writing happening in Buffalo.
It brought a smile to my face knowing that somewhere in the city

There was a gang of heartbroken ducks
Burning their antidepressants and carjacking Lloyd Taco Trucks.
I imagined them driving into the night toward the west coast,

Gorging themselves on shells and salsa
While using the grease to write micropoems
In the window frost about how life can and will be better.

So It Turns out I’m an Asshole Who Has a Cold Sore Fetish

Saturday morning in Western New York:
The cashier at Tim Hortons has a sore on her lower lip.
I assume the worst.
While ordering an extra-large coffee,
I stare at it like some 3D painting –
Really focusing my eyes, y’know,
In hopes of seeing the bigger picture.
Maybe it’s a passion bump, I think,
A sexualized icicle frozen over time.
Too many winters, I think.
Suddenly the sore starts growing
And opens up its bloom for me, beckoning me.
I walk right in and think,
Is this how the Puritans felt
When they hopped off the boat
And stepped onto America’s shore for the first time?
When that star-spangled wilderness hugged them for the first time?
The land of opportunity, I think.
Anyway, after walking around for a bit,
I find myself in a garden
Where all the flowers have gramophones for faces
And when they sing, it sounds scratchy…but perfect,
Because we all have an itch we can’t reach.
I sit and listen closely,
Because there’s so much of me I can’t reach.
When I come to, I’m handing the cashier some money.
Her sore looks like a harvest moon and it’s beautiful,
A satellite that transforms gas station parking lots
Into cornfields of astronomy. Afterwards,
While sitting in my car, all I keep thinking about
Is how much of an asshole I am.

Justin Karcher is the author of Tailgating at the Gates of Hell from Ghost City Press and the chapbook When Severed Ears Sing You Songs from CWP Collective Press. Recent poems have been published in 3:AM Magazine, Zombie Logic Review, Devise Literary, The Honest Ulsterman, The Literateur and more. He is the editor-in-chief of Ghost City Review. His one act play When Blizzard Babies Turn to Stone premiered in February at Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo, NY. He tweets @Justin_Karcher.

Lead image“Cold-Sore” (via Flickr user Practical Cures)