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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Seat Next to the King Poem

Justin Karcher continues his poetic journey through the theater season.

The Tenderness You Can Find in a Public Bathroom

By Justin Karcher

A few years ago

at a New Year’s Eve party

I was at a bar

and punched a hole

in the bathroom wall

I drank too much

but also loathed

the sound

of my heartbeat

there was someone else

in the bathroom

a stranger

who wrapped my broken hand

in paper towels

who told me

everything would be okay

who brought me into the New Year

but I never got his name

the tenderness

you can find

in a public bathroom

I guess I feel freer

in public bathrooms

maybe it’s the architecture

of vulnerability

how you’re out in the world

but not

a tiny space

where you hope

you can be saved

sometimes, the world

seems too big

for your issues

doesn’t take much

for them to be swallowed up

sometimes your heart

needs the smallness

to explore how big it can be

how it’s really larger than the outside

public bathrooms

are the best for that

for figuring out where you belong

porcelain democracies

where we all waste away

a level playing field

existing for one reason:


in whatever way you need

a release from your body

all that heaviness

a release from your job

all that stress

a release from your family

all that disappointment

a release from the government

all that silence

and violence


you can be


but in the back of your mind

you’re always thinking

“I want to share this loneliness

with anyone”

sometimes, you get lucky

another person in there

having a bad day too

and staring at the mirror

the same mirror you’ve been staring at

the sigh of their breath

mixing with whatever’s left of yours

painting the mirror with desires

we all keep bottled away

there’s silence, but sincere eye contact

you imagine

a soft fog rising from a urinal

little ships swimming out of a toilet

little shirtless sailors singing songs

about freedom

about being yourself

about letting go

the stranger will flush

but it’s not just a flush

they’re trying to release

all the sad they feel

just cuz they don’t say anything

doesn’t mean it’s not there

the one thing

we all have in common

is wanting to be loved

for who we really are

for all our faults

for the holes we punch into walls

that’s how you start a revolution

recognizing that we at least

have one thing in common

and I imagine a world

where urinals have detached themselves

from their public prisons

and are floating down streets at night

how they hover next to you

and start flushing

suddenly, whatever’s holding you back

fades away

and you feel loved

you want to kiss the world

you want to hug a stranger

you want to float

you want to wrap up

other people’s brokenness

and you’ll fight to preserve this tenderness

this love


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