• Anthony Chase

Poem inspired by Matthew LaChiusa's "Paradigm Bomb" at ART

"We Wither Away Whenever Yellow Is Worn"

by Justin Karcher

three people on metal stairs by a brick wall
The cast of Matthew LaChiusa's play, "Paradigm Bomb"

Autumn in the air, me and Doben sitting on the bench

in front of Matinee talking about the 48 Hour Film Festival

when Rick comes up to us and dramatically declares,

“It’s like a powder keg out here!” He’s not wrong.


Lately, the Theatre District is more unhinged

than maybe it should be. The whole city is.

When the lights go down, mouthless monologues start crawling

down the street smashing the windows of parked cars.


Everyone on edge despite what they say. How when you

take a knife and carve open a memory foam mattress,

you’ll discover a broken heart pumping out shards of glass.

Increasingly difficult to relax these days,


some winged horse always flying out of your newsfeed

with a big bag of cocaine hanging out of its mouth.

When you think you’ve turned the corner,

you suddenly blow up like a bomb.


Little pieces of who you thought you were

scattered in all directions,

each one searching for that terrible beauty

to make sense of things. An excess of love would be nice,


but our long-legged murmurs are allergic to oxytocin.

They turn into silence by sweating so much

they melt into nothing. We never know

what to say about ourselves anymore.


Just that something is off, so we keep on running.

We talk about revolution

when we should be talking about resurrection.

Because coming out of your shell isn’t the thing


you do once. It’s an everyday thing, how you interact

with the world around you. Walking the streets

and collecting all the yellow police tape you can find.

Wrapping that pain around your body from head to toe.


After leaving Matinee, I catch the caution we throw to the wind.

By the time I get back to West Delavan, I resemble a school bus

bandaged up by blotters. The selfless witching hour

when I stand in front of the abandoned apartment building


across the street from my house and stare down the graffiti.

“Rat hazard” stands out because it's tattooed twice.

I perform a striptease, classy but sensual, removing

each piece of tape like I’m becoming a new person.


Pretty soon there’s a pile of entrails at my feet

and all the windows are winking at me. In the pre-dawn hours,

the powder keg is quieting down. Victory means not losing your mind

when all signs point to yes. It means acknowledging the shitstorm


but not giving in. It means fixing what’s going on inside

and never turning a blind eye. No one should stay allergic

to the sunrise. How when you take a knife and carve up a ghost

you’ll discover all the things you wanted to say but never did.


[Paradigm Bomb by Matthew LaChiusa is presented by American Repertory Theater of WNY, through Oct. 1 at Theater Loft, 545 Elmwood Ave. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 p.m. Saturdays. Tickets are $20 general, $15 for students and $30 for a "Charcuterie Ticket" that includes a charcuterie plate from Braymiller Market. (artofwny. org, 716-697-0837).]