• Anthony Chase

Poem by Justin Karcher inspired by The Buffalo Quickies at Alleyway Theatre



Not Today Ferryman

By Justin Karcher


Near the end of our walk, two ex-lovers

are catching up in an airport terminal

but no airplanes are taking off

they mention Anna Karenina

how impulsive passion is when it’s always trapped

behind glass and despite wanting to break through

you know deep down that it’ll probably lead to tragedy

so you throw out the one phone number

that might actually make you happy


as the lovers part and we applaud, I notice the guy

that’s been circling around Shea’s 710 on his bike

looks a lot like Tim Burton with a worrying look on his face

and I don’t blame him: the Buffalo Theater District transformed

after months of lockdown and tumbleweed, live theater’s back

mini-plays presented behind storefront windows, the audience

wearing headphones with a direct connection to the hidden

secrets of other people’s voices, how dealing with grief is different

for everyone, and I can’t help but think about Tim Burton movies


how they’re all fantastical to some degree, misfits and lonely souls

looking for that sense of community, somewhere to belong

and tonight we’re all trying to come out of our shells again

reacquainting ourselves with the city we call home, the concrete holes

where food trucks used to be or the air pockets once home to so many

sweet nothings, how tonight we are falling in love again with Buffalo

all her stories, how every day it seems we have to convince ourselves

we’re not living in Purgatory or that at a moment’s notice

we’re ready to shed our wallpaper skin and reveal our cracks


because we’ve never been too good at hiding our breakdowns no matter

how hard we try, but we’re great at singing about them, which is what

we must do, seduce the ferryman with song so they cross the river alone

because it’s not our time yet, there are still balloons to chase high up

in the sky and phone calls to answer, friend or foe, it doesn’t matter

we’re ready for a higher purpose, a nonstop super star show

where we put all our cards on the table, take ‘em or leave ‘em

this is who we are, but now we’re self-portraits open to suggestions

ways to improve ourselves and the world around us


anyway, when it’s all over, Tim Burton is nowhere to be seen

but the whole block is pulsating with a strange joyful energy

like a new home being constructed before our very eyes, how it’s welcoming

all lonely souls with open arms and as we walk back to our car

which is parked near Coco, I think about how we stopped there for drinks

before the show and there was this older woman sitting by herself at the bar

eating fries and when we make eye contact, she bursts into a smile

and proceeds to tell me how she has been living by herself

through all of this and even though it’s been tough, she’s so happy


to be vaccinated, that maybe all we need is to share the same space

and we can figure it out from there, I tell her I’m going to the theater

that she should go too