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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Poem Inspired by "Lost in Yonkers"

Fast and Furious in Yonkers

By Justin Karcher

Halfway through the first act

I start thinking about Vin Diesel

because in the movie Furious 7

Dom Toretto declares

“I don’t have friends, I have family”

Lost in Yonkers has a similar message

now I keep imagining

a fantasy world

where Neil Simon

writes movies for Vin Diesel

and they’re all about

the importance of family

how you’re constantly

trying to figure out your family

the secrets

that turn hearts into car wrecks

how gasoline leaks

from talks at dinner time

how there’s always a relative

tossing a lit cigarette

into all that flammable tenderness

how everything tends

to go up in flames

when you try to love

what you’re born into

how you never really understand

the people you call family

until you’re forced to

a lonely aunt desperate for affection

who builds you ice cream castles

where you are king or queen

ruling over a land of sweet tooths

where kids never go to bed

because they’re scared to death

of orphanages for imperfect brains

like your lonely aunt

who was touched

when she was a kid

now she’s a scarecrow

your grandma keeps

in the closet when the dreaming

gets too big, when the silver screen

is all that your aunt sees

always wondering

what it’s like to be a star

what it’s like to grant wishes

but your family’s sky is too dark

for that kind of shine

too many birds

flying around the living room

blotting out satellite signals

you can never hear the right words

some have tried to listen

like your gangster uncle

who’s always dragging around

a treasure chest of stolen goods

gold pretzels or moldy European cash

from counties that don’t exist anymore


that people would sing at weddings

the kind of love

that can’t function in the new world

you don’t know enough

to miss it

your grandma does

she instilled it in your father

who’s scrapping metal

somewhere far away

trying to save enough money

so he can buy indestructible fins

and swim away from that loan shark

your mother’s dead

a cubicle in the ground

and a work day that never ends

your uncle’s always hiding

from men who wanna kill him

the world always has a gun

aimed at your front door

now your aunt wants to run off

with an usher who can’t read

your other aunt is hushed by anxiety

until she can barely breathe

she sleeps with her head inside

the pillowcase, not quite death

but still a different kind of grave

how tragic

when bedrooms turn into cemeteries

your grandma handles these mysteries

with an iron fist, hardly been kissed

since your grandpa died

gotta be strong

or else you’re stillborn

maybe your grandma’s not right

beaten down by a horse

when she was young

no doctor, no painkillers, no aspirin

just a shakiness in the bones

whenever she tries to walk

a pain she refuses to express

an emptiness in the air around her

she has sold candy all her life

but still doesn’t believe

in the sweetness

don’t blame her

she didn’t ask for any of this

I guess the moral of the story

is that loving is hard

that your family

usually feels like a 50-car pileup

that we always gotta reach

through broken glass

with tenderness and precision

to pull out the heartbeats

that can translate brainwaves

so we can inch closer to the truth

and this journey

no matter how depressing it is

is worth it

that maybe the roots you are born with

will one day blossom into wings

and you can fly


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