Two Poems by Holly Karapetkova


My son is afraid of zombies. He runs into my room at night. They're going to eat my brains! They’ll come in through the windows while we’re sleeping and eat our brains!

Don’t worry, I tell him, zombies don't exist. But what if they do? They don't. But maybe they do. They don't. But maybe they do.

We walk through the house together, checking each door and window; everything’s latched tight. See, I tell him, no way zombies could get in. He’s not convinced. I dig out the water we brought back from Krastova Gora, where pilgrims wind around the sacred spring. I sprinkle it on his head, make crosses on his wrists. He’s satisfied and falls asleep.

I stay awake, hear insects scraping their wings against the windows, leaves shifting beneath the empty sky. I spread the sacred water by each window, each doorstep, watching. What is there in the darkness is always looking in, dead-eyed and hankering for flesh. I watch it walk, arms raised, almost human.


The Invisible Man
Universal Pictures, 1933

Don’t worry—I was never really here, the knot of laughing gas, the matrix I entered and entered until I reached the blank page where my nose should’ve been. All it took was a mixture of the right chemicals, the right proportions, and the blank page waiting to break the bonds that tied me to myself. Fill it with truths that fit in my hands: A hot mess of wishful thinking will drive the prices up, pour a glass of champagne, pop the bubble of discontent.

See how my freedom blooms violently to fill the empty space, the wrong man made right, the rapist was just fooling around, this 70 degree December was what we expected all along. Nothing a little cold cash can’t settle. The map that shows the temperatures rising is so red it burns my fingers, abandoned houses washing up along the coast.

You choose your facts and I’ll choose mine. Unwrap the bandages from my head: there’s nothing there.

Holly Karapetkova's poetry, prose, and translations from the Bulgarian have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, RHINO, and many other places. Her second book, Towline, won the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize and was recently published by Cloudbank Books.