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Poetry by Neil Carpathios


Between the Appetizers and the Entrees

Of course, I wasn’t there,
no one was,
as the bullet spiraled
through the barrel
and corkscrewed
into your mouth.
The hole it left
in the back of your head
I imagine plugging
with my finger
like the little Dutch boy
plugging the leaky damn.
I would leave it there
holding the mess in
until we figured
something out.
Like Holland,
there would be a happy ending,
the you inside you intact.
But in this story
your family is drowning,
even if they pretend they’re not.
Dead you sits 
on your mother’s shelf
in a vase.
During the tornado warning
she took you with her
to the basement, said
“I can’t lose him again.”
Your sister tells us
as she passes me the pepper
at the restaurant,
trying to laugh.

Urgent Prayer

When I picked up,
the recorded voice said
“Press #1 for urgent prayer.”
How could I have known
that later that day
you’d murder you on your parents’ patio?
Robocalls in the name of the Lord
are nothing new. I’ve heard of them.
But this was my first,
and no other since.
It sounds silly,
but I’m sorry I rolled my eyes
and hung up.
Whatever a you or me is
I pray for now
in case some god
picks up his phone,
doesn’t hang up,
and listens.

The Stain on the Concrete

Never left.
Refused to be erased.
Faded but still blooms.
Like a pink rose
through cement.
Defied hours, days 
of scrubbing
with sponges, detergents.
as if to say
Like a period
or exclamation mark.
Like a birthmark
on skin.
on stone.
We know it’s there
under the throw rug
with tropical flowers.
We make small talk
and carefully step over it
with drinks in our hands.

The Woodpecker

He came yesterday,
landed on my sill.
He pecks his tiny sledgehammer
against the frame.
I open the window,
shoo him, 
he flies away, 
comes back a minute later.
Poe had his raven,
I have my woodpecker.

Is it you, Ryan, in a bird suit?
You were always stubborn.
Even after the accident
you rode your motorcycle,
arms and legs full of pins and metal.

Your parents spent all your money.
Jobless, lazy, kept pushing for more.
You showed them who’s boss.
Left them with a mess to clean up.
And nightmares.
Shouldn’t you be pecking their house?

Are you marking your territory with sound?
Are you drilling a hole for a nest?
Or are you trying to say something?
What do you want? 
Will this poem suffice?

If it’s not you, just some bird,
you’d admire his sleek head,
his tenacity. His fierce desire.
All the trees in the woods
and he insists on this spot.
How foolish. How macho.

Online it says to use a visual
deterrent to get rid of him.
Aluminum foil? A fake squirrel?
I’ll let him peck a little longer.
Would that make you happy?
And by the way,
any chance you’ve seen my dead mother?


Neil Carpathios is the author of five full-length poetry collections and several chapbooks. His most recent works are Confessions of a Captured Angel (Terrapin Books), Far Out Factoids (FutureCycle Press), and The Function of Sadness (winner of the Slipstream Press Chapbook Prize). He also edited the anthology Every River on Earth: Writing from Appalachian Ohio (Ohio University Press). He teaches English and Creative Writing at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Be sure to check out this exclusive interview with Neil on the Orson’s Publishing blog.