• Anthony Chase

Poem inspired by "Knock Knock, Jesus Calling"


If You Turn into Stained Glass, You Must Eventually Break Yourself

By JUSTIN KARCHER


When I think about God

I think Annunciation Church

on Lafayette Ave

in Buffalo’s West Side

down the street from where I grew up

a gothic skyscraper that watched my every move


the church where I was baptized

in the tap water of patriarchy on life support

which allegedly had a secret basement

full of wine, liquor & boy-bones

where allegedly my uncles would go

get saint-smashed & hang out with strange priests

a catacomb where they learned how to be addicts


the church where I confessed my first sin

I told a girl in 3rd grade that she was smelly

her name was Emily

she cried & cried

& I remember feeling horrible

how can people make other people feel bad

about themselves? when the lack of empathy

turns eyes into rowboats, a tidal wave

that betrays your face, where you reach out to shore

but there’s no safe harbor


the church where there was always a garden in gray bloom

which looked like quicksand & for some reason

I had convinced myself that vampires lived underneath it

so me & my cousin would go hunting for them at night

stomping around the garden & destroying the flowers

sometimes a priest would come out & yell at us

sometimes we would burst into flames

maybe we were the vampires instead

anyway, I don’t talk to my cousin anymore

last I heard he became a truck driver which makes me happy

because that’s what he always wanted to do

that open road, the euphoria of gasoline & lifting up

a country, maybe he’s fighting vampires in Ohio

or Iowa right now & I’m jealous because a great frost

has wiped out all the fangs in Buffalo, passion frozen over

there can be no vampires in a city where blood doesn’t boil

there can’t be any growth if there’s self-loathing in the soil

the church where I was confirmed

given the new name of Lancelot

because I thought it was cool

actually, the saint’s name was Ladislaus

some Ukrainian general

who also went by Lancelot

I don’t remember what he did

but I hope it was miracle-worthy

if he wasn’t

well

it would explain a lot

how I’m constantly on the lookout for miracles

ways to pierce the veil between this world

& something else, which is why

I’ve given everything to poetry, to the stage

to mastering the art of conjuring new ghosts


when I think about Annunciation Church

I also think about this one time

when I got the shit kicked out of me

it wasn’t the first time

probably not the last time

but I remember it so vividly

I was maybe 7 or 8 years old

hanging out with my cousin of course

& there were these teenagers roughhousing

in this grassy area next to the church

roughhousing is the only way to describe

what they were doing, because teenagers like them

grow up to be men who can only build

houses that are rough

houses that imprison the other people inside

with bruises & sweat


anyway, so these teenagers are roughhousing

& for some reason I think I can roughhouse with them

I demonstrate this to my cousin

by doing a roundhouse kick

he’s impressed & thinks I’m ready

so we go up to them & I ask if I can play

the teenagers laugh & before I know it

the one punches me square in the chest

& I can’t breathe, prayers lose their momentum

then I’m pushed to the ground & kicked

now I’m crying ‘cause I’m a little kid

I remember staring at all the stained glass

& being calmed by their broken colors

apostles showering with rainbows

the adventures of Jesus look like explosions

but something that you can also break if you’re angry enough

then my eyes are burning

the aftermath of my own personal explosions

then there are more kicks

then I feel my body going deeper into the ground

like a corpse or a vampire

eventually my cousin runs & gets help

eventually the teenagers run off

eventually I cry so much that heat rises all around me

eventually I turn into stained glass

I remember it feeling pretty damn good

anyway, I broke through my own stained glass

when I hit puberty & things have never been the same

©2019 by Theater Talk ... and I'm Anthony Chase

Buffalo, NY, USA