He lost the device all humans have behind their forehead. Like a furnace filter sifting dander and dust or an oil filter in a car straining gunk and debris—a death catcher. He serviced it regularly, removed it, cleaned off mangled soldiers, murder victims, car crash fatalities bunched up and snagged there. Maybe he misplaced it. We only get one. Now the little girl, raped and dismembered, the man reads about on the front page as he eats his Cheerios, gets in—ruining his breakfast. Later that day at work, he learns why the secretary is out: her son crushed by a tractor—ruining his lunch.
For a while, he manages. Anyone can handle a few. But soon he starts feeling heavy.Days and nights pass. With nothing to separate things out he fills up. Sometimes he can’t move. He hardly eats or sleeps, all the weeping, those screams. The filter made life so much easier, allowed him to forget. He actually once felt good about clouds and trees
and even other people on the street.
His time now is spent finding new ways of surviving without the device. And shuffling the bodies, trying to make room—a nook here, a corner there—for the endless depositing of starved Africans, tumor-covered babies, the shriveled mother in the nursing home who just last night stopped breathing.
Neil Carpathios is the author of three full-length poetry collections – Playground of Flesh (Main Street Rag Press), At the Axis of Imponderables (winner of the Quercus Review Press Book Award), and Beyond the Bones (FutureCycle Press). He is an associate professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Artwork: John Barclay, 1820.