Neil Carpathios   


When the Cashier is Not Friendly


When the cashier is not friendly,
when the cashier is downright cold,
picture her in the dirty apartment
she barely can afford,
voices through her plaster wall
cursing, sounds of breaking glass,
as she tosses and finally sleeps,
drool leaking from the corner of
her mouth. Imagine being a fly
on her couch, watching her nervous
habit of chewing her nails, the way
she plays solitaire for hours alone
Saturday nights, chain-smoking,
drinking cheap wine. See her
mending holes in her socks
and plucking gray hairs from
her temples. Study her hateful
expression when she looks at
her lumpy naked body
in the mirror. And even if
she lives a sparkly life
much harder to imagine,
peek behind her mask
that hides a little girl
who skinned her knee once,
with a bottom lip like yours
that quivered in embarrassment
and pain, tears on her cheeks,
who slowly got up, rubbed
her eyes and started walking
toward this moment she didn’t
know was waiting far ahead.
Walk with her past
her deep hole—among all
the world’s holes—
where she buried
her wild, infinite dreams,
where she places a flower
on the dirt mound like a grave.
Feel the cashier’s fingertips
as she frowns, her skin touching
yours, the brief second
that if some god pressed Pause
on his remote would freeze
your energy to hers
as she drops the cool
metal coins onto your palm.


Neil Carpathios is the author of three full-length poetry collections, one a national competition winner, and several award-winning chapbooks. He was recently named winner of the 2015 Slipstream Press Poetry Competition for his collection, The Function of Sadness, which has just been released this month. He also recently edited the anthology, Every River on Earth: Writing from Appalachian Ohio (Ohio University Press, 2015). He has had several poems of a spiritual nature recently featured also in the magazine, In Touch. He is an associate professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.