The Artist

By on Feb 12, 2014 in Poetry

Child-like drawing of stick figures in boat

My little son draws an ocean and above it
prehistoric-looking birds.
A ship with stick figure men in hats
on deck. A sun with lines
of heat spoking out.

There is a small clump of land,
an island, and on it a single
palm tree. He adds one,
then a second coconut
which has fallen on sand.

Now nineteen he sits
beside me in the car,
staring out the window while we drive
to college. He wants to be an actor
but there’s no room

in my skull’s theater. He can’t
see behind my forehead
the big screen where he stars,
a six year old sitting at the table
with a father recently divorced

who writes checks paying bills
as snow piles up and wind howls
rattling windows,
the father daydreaming
a tropical paradise

with umbrella drinks
and brown-skinned goddesses,
not a care, no guilt
for once, another Paul Gaugin.
Then the little son adds

a stick figure man and stick figure
boy next to the coconuts,
and gives the father the sketch
and says,
“I took us on vacation.”

I turn the radio up, then tap his knee
and he turns to me, surprised, and we
just look at each other a moment
and keep driving past farm houses,
billboards, oceans of wheat.




Neil Carpathios is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Playground of Flesh (Main Street Rag), 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.