Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared worldwide, in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Deep Water, Expound, The Muse: India, Red River Review, Snakeskin, Voices Israel, Ygdrasil, and many others. Several of his poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize (including three in 2015). Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto and The Li Bo Poems, both from Flutter Press.
"...when all the angels lost their lives
except for one, and he was left wounded,
unable to fly…"
Raphael Alberti (translated by Mark Strand)
Bitter angel with your knife-
hilt hand, cigarette dangling
as you lean wounded in the doorway of ash and blades,
this is an invocation, an opening of my body, a prayer.
Here in darkness you have seen
clouds become smoke black
choking sky. Smoke rises from ovens,
escapes from graves and billows from scalded sea.
Your eyes can do nothing but burn.
They have watched the dead
century accumulate skulls, witnessed piles
of broken fingers, golden rings and teeth and hair.
Your torn wings ache in their absence,
your legs broken and heavy
in gravity’s unaccustomed pull, dragged down
into a suffering shell of flesh and bone, unable to fly.
Wind has picked up and white clouds
part for the sun. You might have been
a dog once, on a day like this, sleeping
on a splash of light that puddled
round the trunk of a slender oak
as warmth penetrated your quiet dream.
It was in the backyard of a house
almost hidden by a canopy of leaves,
a space for dreaming in the sun.
All day lilacs rustled overhead
offering purple bunches
as if their bounty would never fade,
a blizzard of petals tumbling to the grass.
The House We Forgot
Tonight the bricks glow as moonlight
trickles through oak. But we just tossed
keys onto the muddy lawn as our truck
bounced out of town. We were baying
to oldies, not caring that our credit was
shot. We were looking for Atlanta with
a phone and a map. Your mother said
this wasn’t a good idea, to drive south
in such a wind, face to face with ourselves
and the house forgotten, the world not
quite green in early spring, but poised
to end in gloom or flame or some quieter
misery crouched in the future, in shadows
where pines bent along the coast and crows
above wheat fields pitted the face of sky.
Beyond the Tracks
A house sits half sunk in weeds, an ocean
of grasses nobody wants, a Sargasso Sea
of dandelions and crab. Maybe you lived
there once, with a unit of your beloved
dead. Maybe you sat at the window while
crows dotted the empty sky. Faces swam
in oil slick puddles, handprints smudged
the walls. Voices poured from the kitchen
worrying over coffee and soup and handfuls
of beans. Radios crackled from an upper
floor. Stairs creaked with the weight
of ghosts. Windows rattled, trains rumbled
by at intervals measured by the absence
of noise. They carried freight to a city
that burned with desire, one melted down
to shells and sand. Tide rushed in and tunnels
flooded, subways floated in garbage and rats.
It was a town deleted by history, where the dead
trudged, following storm clouds and the rains of night.
I will ride a train that stops here, at this
beige house with its windows smiling,
its pleasant pines bowing, its squirrels
chittering over the roof, and its prophetic
crows. Without a look back, I will board
at 5 a. m., breakfast dancing in my gut,
and ride across the desert to mountains
bleeding rust red in the sun.
Will you travel with me, hands empty
as a new page in a writing book?
Will you leave the air shaped around
a structure charred into shadow and ash?
We could carry houses on our backs,
small ones into which we could crawl
at the first sign of trouble, first hint
of gunplay as we bounce into the hungry
west, balanced on this river of steel and noise.