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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Poem inspired by Bright Colors and Bold Patterns

One Day, You’ll Have a Mental Breakdown, It’ll Be Beautiful & There’ll Be a Standing Ovation at the End

By Justin Karcher

One Day, You’ll Have a Mental Breakdown, It’ll Be Beautiful & There’ll Be a Standing Ovation at the End

By Justin Karcher

They say it’s healthy

to be an open book

to be honest

with no secrets

but no one ever

talks about the vulnerability

how it’s easy to be blinded

by bright colors

& confused by bold patterns

even your own

& despite your best efforts

to understand

what you’ve turned into

you always find yourself

in the same exact spot

as before:

cutting yourself open

because you smashed a whiskey bottle

against the wall of a bar

that doesn’t exist anymore

because you don’t like the song that’s playing

or because you wrote a poem

that confesses everything

but no one understands it

or because you got up on stage

& tried to monologue your way

out of this madness

but the audience was too tipsy

to help release you from your self-imposed psychiatric hospital

you always expect

everyone around you

to watch the literal or metaphorical blood

gush out

& go “Oooh” & “Ahhh”

like it’s a Marvel movie

like you’re a hashtag superhero

on the lips of the forever young

but that’s selfish

anyway, that kind of vulnerability

scares most people away

because blood never looks healthy

in or out of the body

on the page

or on the stage

& it’s easy to drown in

if you’re not careful

I just wish people

had stronger stomachs

for the animalistic self-sacrifice

of others

because it’s uncontrollable

the momentum of opening up

I should know

I’m an alcoholic

who has pretended

to be an open book

at every party

I’ve ever been to

in the center

of a circle that isn’t even there

spewing ink

like a squid

which is probably an image

I’ve used in another poem

but this is America

where we repeat the same ideas

over & over again

you know what’s interesting?

how on some nights

Buffalo feels more like Palm Springs

the kind of heat

that doesn’t belong

in a city like this

so when you feel it crawling

into your pores

you need to watch out

you need to just go home

politely abandon the people you’re with

because the heat

doesn’t play nice with your brain

it never has

it’ll melt the part that helps

you make good decisions

then where will you be?

it was a night like that

that I met Gerry

who told me all about this wedding

he was at

how he was surrounded by exes

& piles of coke from 1975

the moon looked like the sun

or maybe it was the other way around

it doesn’t matter

what I’m saying is that the stars

didn’t know where to go

they kept bumping

into pop culture

or news headlines

a world dressed in beige

that could never understand

your explosions of color

it doesn’t matter

what I’m saying is that the constellations

were all out of whack

but it was beautiful

watching Gerry

trying to connect the dots of himself

& to be honest

I was a little bit jealous

the kind of vulnerability

that gets a standing ovation

the acknowledgement

that even though you are at your worst

you’re trying so hard to be your best

afterward, we went out


we first went to Matinee

where I tried ordering a Red Bull

but they were all out

so I got a sour beer

then the heat began to rise

I found myself staring

at the cardboard cutout

of Adam Yellen

biting into a cardboard taco

I decided I would one day

write a poem about this

this is not that poem

afterward, we make an appearance

at Q

where they have Red Bull on tap

but it’s not really Red Bull

it looks like it

but the taste is different

it’s tough to put that taste into words

but I imagine it’s a lot like

a marathon

where the spectators

hold out tiny cups of holy water

& when the runners run by

they grab the cups & drink

& their minds are like, “This is water”

but their hearts are like, “Something’s off

but keep running

keep doing what you set out to do”

so I get more sour beers

eventually I find myself dazing out

in front of the urinal

staring at the poster for Trivia Night

every Wednesday starting at 9:00

hosted by Dave Poole

some nights trivia is the only validation

that works for me

it’s nice to know that the useless knowledge

inside your head

is good for something

sometimes it’s the only thing

that keeps me from feeling like I’m dead

overdramatic I know

but I’m just trying to be honest here

then I think the night’s done

& I’m glad I made it

without breaking down

& pissing somewhere I shouldn’t

but then there’s a heatwave

& it’s decided we’re all gonna go

to a Grindr off the grid party

then suddenly I’m on a rooftop

with Gerry & almost everyone in the city

mostly everyone here is looking for love or lust

or maybe just a release

it doesn’t matter

shirtless boys passing around creepy baby masks

& putting them on

then dancing until they pass out

in the arms

of the devils of old age

or maybe they’re just sunburnt daddies

crawling out of the shadows

meanwhile I’m staring at a downtown church

that’s in the distance

trying to hurl smoke rings onto the steeple

Jesus may have once lived here

but he could never

get a good night’s sleep

on that uncomfortable rusted cross

which is about as comfy

as a stranger’s air mattress

in an apartment you never thought you’d end up

maybe a road trip gone awry

books on their bookshelf you’ve never read

anyway, I imagine Jesus looking at us

he’s hanging out on carpeted cloud coverage

getting stoned with pink angels

that look like flamingoes

I imagine him crying out

“I gave them my body

my blood

I have nothing else left to give”

he opened himself up

like a book

& a lot of people read it

but what good did that do?


I bet Jesus just wants us to dance

so then I notice

a table of uneaten donuts

a continent of sprinkles

& the sprinkles seem to be glittering

like tiny cities

you’ve always wanted to visit

for a moment, I wonder why there are donuts here

but then I wonder why no one is eating them

I debate hopping off the roof toward the table

because I love donuts

then I get distracted

imagining the human heart

as a muscle covered with sprinkles

left behind from all the people you’ve ever loved

you want them to stick there forever

but over time, they begin to flake off

in the best-case scenario, there’s a trail of them

behind you

like fairytale breadcrumbs

so you can retrace your steps if you want

rediscover the chemistry

that connected you with the world

but depression is a pain in the ass

it makes you think that your feelings

are unread books in a library that’s always burning

burn it down anyway

pray there are smoke signals

pray that there are people

whose lungs are strong enough

to handle the harshness

lastly I notice the liquor

next to the uneaten donuts

& I know I’m done for

I tell Gerry, “I’m gonna go get drunk”

so I run toward the table

& they only have vodka

which is a shame

but it’ll do

there are also jugs of Tang

for whatever reason

so I make low-quality screwdrivers

& start writing my obituary

pretty soon I abandon the Tang

because remember you’re the driver

of your own screw

pretty soon I’m wearing a baby mask

& I’m surrounded by lepers

telling them I write poetry

that they should too

it’s all a blur

when you’re an open book

& then usually

you black out

when I wake up I’m alone

there’s only leftover heat

& no standing ovation

but maybe one day

there will be

I wonder what Gerry

thinks about all of this

how tough it is

to be bright and bold


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