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

Buffalo, NY, USA

  • Anthony Chase

Poem Inspired by The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid & Izzy



Keep Probing & All the Pretenders Will Blossom into the Truth

By JUSTIN KARCHER


So there I am

wearing a comically-oversized cowboy hat

& running through The Broadway Market

looking for my resurrection

but it’s not the right season or month for starting over

so I climb a staircase of tumbleweed in the parking lot

straight into the setting sun

which smells a lot like death

but not like scary death, more like pretend death

which is still intense, but in a different way

I do my best to ignore the situation

pay attention to all the songs

leaving the lips of everyone below

sometimes they hit the mark

& wipe out the wilderness


there’s no difference

between the American Old West

& Broadway

people desperate to tell stories

desperate to be the heroes

& villains

they think

this country needs

folk heroes or folk

anti-heroes

functioning as medication

for our unmedicated minds


into my thirties

& I have no idea

who I am

a blank coloring book

after all these years

long nights of coloring in myself

with other people’s crayons

then when morning comes

the sun wipes away the colors

so I’m blank again

when you ask me how I’m doing

I’ll always say, “Fine”

but please probe

when you ask what I’m up to

I’ll always say, “Everything”

but please probe


because I’m always ready for heroics

I’m always ready for villainy

but really

what I’m looking for

is a special song plucked from the air

that’ll explain all of this to me

I’m still looking

maybe we’ll always be looking


like, one night I’m in the American

Old West

watching grown ass men

debate who shot who

decades ago

sheriffs & preachers

holding onto their dreams for dear life

& if anyone lets go

their fabric of masculinity

will unravel

& then where will we be?

in a better world I suppose

& I do want them to let go

unravel

& I guess that’s what I want

for everyone I care about

to let go

unravel

because for the love of God

get to the heart of what’s bugging you

what’s fucking with your identity

but there’s never any unraveling

& if it does look like unraveling

it’s a lie

that doesn’t get to the truth


& I guess that’s what we need

truth

the American Old West

& Broadway

turned on their heads

for the contents of their massive brains to pour out

to set it all ablaze

start again

be real this time


like, one night I’m in the belly

of a phoenix that doesn’t fly

it stays rooted in a city

that might not understand it

some people just come by

to light their cigarettes

on its eyes

I imagine them muttering

“Give me the fire that you see”

but you have to have really strong eyes for that

anyway, inside the belly

I’m watching four singers

deconstruct the ghost

of a songwriter

who was never alive

in the first place

a casualty of Broadway

born across the ocean

who tried & tried

to sing the truth

but failed admirably

but still a failure

a loser

but we all tend to ignore

the truth

so wouldn’t we all be losers too?

maybe that’s the truth


the great lie of Broadway

the great lie of the American

Old West

musical theater & gun fights

tell the same story

the words are different

but the songs are essentially

the same


at intermission

I get a text from Bernie Sanders

“Billionaires shouldn’t exist”

I agree

it’s like the perfect sext

for someone like me

who would skip gym class in high school

to read The Communist Manifesto

next to the statue of an old timey soldier

in Bidwell Pkwy

or was it Chapin Pkwy?

do you really care though?

thought so

either way

sometimes I think Bernie Sanders

doesn’t exist

an anti-capitalistic gunslinger

or Broadway composer

shooting songs

into our hearts

a giant ghost

formed from all the little ghosts

of our dashed dreams

what is the story he & we

are trying to tell?

who are we pretending to be?


the truth is hard to nail

but I guess we have to pretend

we’re nailing it good

because our lives depend on it


after my adventures in the American

Old West & on Broadway

I think about Captain America

now lemme explain


it was a little over a year ago

& I’m standing out front Shea’s Smith

when this bald guy walks up to me

he’s using a cane

a Star of David tattooed under his right eye

he asks me when the Bisons game lets out

I tell him it’s baseball

so the game can go all night


then suddenly he asks me

if I like camping

but before I can answer

he tells me I shouldn’t

because if I go camping

I need to watch out for rattlesnakes

that’s why he uses a cane

a rattlesnake bit him

he was camping with his sister

somewhere in Colorado

celebrating her getting off meth


he tells me it was hell getting there

a Greyhound bus from South Jersey

to the other side of the country

brewing coffee in truck stop urinals

scraping the buzz off unmarked headstones

roadside sandwich shacks

where the fried bologna

was carved from the hearts of pigs

older than your great grandparents

he tells me they were magic pigs

I tell him that bologna is many things

a history of leftovers

but he doesn’t care


when he arrived in ski country

the mountains were too much for his mind

he almost lost it

he had to be strong though

for his sister

but then there was that fuckin’ rattlesnake

in the wilderness

he was rushed to the hospital

because he was paralyzed from the neck down


they tried forcing pills down his throat

but his wall wouldn’t crumble

his soul was strong

because God’s his only doctor

it’s a miracle he’s still standing

that he’s able to walk

I ask him if his sister’s okay

he tells me that Colorado’s rough

but that Buffalo’s rougher

because here

the sins are cheaper

I ask him what brought him to Buffalo

homelessness and disability

he’s hoping the Bisons are still playing

because he has tickets for tomorrow’s game

that he wants to scalp

money he can take to the casino

to win more money

so he can return to South Jersey

he’s okay with gambling

because God’s on his side


then he asks me if I’m a believer

if I know about the lost tribes of Israel

he points to the star on his face

I tell him I do and finally introduce myself

he tells me his name is Cap

like Captain America

we start talking about the Avengers

it sounds like religious babble


eventually Cap asks what I’m doing

I tell him I saw a play

he doesn’t seem interested

but then tells me that it must be nice

pretending you’re someone else

I don’t disagree with him


I give him a cigarette

as we’re smoking

I imagine all the buildings around us

transforming into mountains

a whole bunch of addicts

trapped in caves

I imagine they’re rescued by superheroes

I imagine the star on Cap’s face

shining on a very large proscenium stage

a whole bunch of actors

pretending to be superheroes


then without warning

Cap tells me he has to go

that God watches over us

that was it


I guess it’s all about

making your words matter

whoever you are

you have a story worth telling