by Neil Carpathios

Standing next to me in the pew
he slipped me a candy root beer barrel
to suck during the dull sermon,
as if to say thinking about
God doesn’t require a lack
of all pleasure. Then before the priest
finished his endless ranting on heaven
and hell, my father sneaked us out
the small side door marked
Emergency Exit,

which this was. He drove us
to Mister Donut for cream sticks and cocoa
while everyone else sat sweating
in the cramped church,
force-fed God-this, God-that.

What we talked about I don’t remember,
but it wasn’t sin or damnation,
and instead of a cube of bread and sip
of wine we gulped maple icing,
doughy pastry, washed down with
liquid chocolate, our communion.

Then he offered me Bazooka bubble gum,
pink corn syrup and sugar congealed—
to clear the palate, he said—
as if to hammer home that God dwells
in sweetness and more sweetness
in the least likely of places,
even a greasy donut shop
where a father and son hunch,
shoulder to shoulder,
at a chipped plastic counter.


More from Neil Carpathios
The Function of Saddness
This Is Not a Poem, Damn It
What Happens Under the Overpass

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 Book Award), and the just released Beyond the Bones (FutureCycle Press). He is a professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.

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