Four Poems

Steve Klepetar


There never was a time when the city didn’t glow
in candlelight, when towers failed to rise white

above horses, carts, the swirling scene of capes
and cloaks and boots. Flames guttered in the wind

and owls swooped from trees in the parks and
in river lands. Bridges sang slowly until gray sky

of dawn seeped from wheezing breath of dying
night. Here is a city of bells and gongs, a city

hollow with sound. Strangers slip over the borders,
country people descend, bringing their village

ways. They light fires under lampposts, feed
their children amid stumps and mud. They roast

chestnuts, sell little bags of magic snow, chalk
prayers onto pavement where they keep their

counsels, their unruly zoos. War has washed
them here, where golden streams flow along

boulevards. Soon soldiers will hurry them away,
to mountains where smoke rises, blackening clouds.


Stepping Into the Frame

Van Gogh reproduction
on the wall above my head

becomes cold blue sky
fragmented through branches

of oak. As I step into the frame,
rough hog bristle brushstrokes

find my cheeks between collar
and pulled-down cap. Finding

form, I swell with color, lurch
westward, face bent toward the wind.


The Woman Who Sang to Birds

She lay light in her bed until the earliest
threads of dawn filtered in under her lids,

and summer birds began their lovely,
mindless twittering. Slowly at first, a few

silvery notes, then a sprinkle of sound,
gradual rain swelling into storm.

She shook out her dark hair, stretched
gathered strands wide into wings,

danced into air. All around birds fluttered
and rose, nervous cloud of feathers

and fear, until her voice gained purchase
against trees, rubbing branches and bark.

She trilled at larks, sent jays screeching
to the cover of leaves, lulled robins,

sparrows, chickadees. In the neighborhood
dogs stirred. Cats bloody from a night

of claws and sex stretched and yawned, licked
their paws, nuzzling the gentle arms of sleep.


Safe Space

“We must always have a place
to store the darkness”

Agha Shahid Ali

A house or a cave swept
for that purpose,

where the noise of loss lessens,
where light’s eerie sound muffles

against shadows or carpets
or moss,

where the sound of scraping
meets your bleeding palms.

You hide warnings in wax
paper so the sun won’t reach.

Your nails teach hieroglyphics
to the scurrying mice,

but your throat has closed down,
your tongue left limp and damaged.

Your eyes penetrate silence,
your ears erase the wailing of gnats.

All night you gaze at the ceiling
where ghost moths flit.

trailing shredded strands of dream.


Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared worldwide, in such journals as A New Ulster, 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 (Flutter Press) and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (Kind of a Hurricane Press). His ninth collection, The Li Bo Poems, is forthcoming from Flutter Press.

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