She says “The happier I am, the less I want
to know.” It’s raining and cold for May,
pastel tulips huddled shut and out of place.
I’ve been thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins,
but can’t keep track without writing them down.
Gluttony, Lust, and Greed seem branches
of the same diseased tree, really just an excess
of hunger, sexual desire, and wanting stuff.
I ask if she ever thinks of sin.
“Let’s go for coffee and a donut,” she says,
skipping around puddles in the road.
Her legs are bare and goose bumps sprout
along her thighs, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
She smiles. “That should help with Sloth.”
My eyes follow her hemline, her little skips
and darts. I tick off Anger (or Wrath,
which sounds more Biblical), and Envy
(similar, like being pissed that someone’s got
what you don’t, right? Inside the coffee house
it’s warm; cinnamon scent of donuts clouds
my mind. We eat, moaning with our mouths full.
Then we eat another, and a third. I can’t recall
the seventh one, Pride or why that’s even bad
or how you could be human without the other six.
On the Stoop
There again is memory
at my doorstep –
Agha Shahid Ali
She sits on the stoop, waiting for me
to let her in, with her cat’s face
and a basket of wine and bread.
It’s April, still cold enough to see
her breath rising, fragmenting in the wind.
Should I wait for her to knock
with soft hands, a hushed sound less heard
than felt along my neck?
Should I behave well, invite her
to slip into a chair, lay out glasses and plates,
get ready for a long night of old songs?
She’ll have brought the moon
and a hundred photographs, carefully
retouched. Lost stars will shine again
above dark streets that exist
no more. Evening will open, a cave
that widens from narrow mouth to a cavern
lined with dreams:
emeralds and gold and a ruby stream spilling
down to a wide path through a meadow
blazing with green flames, where horses gallop
and disappear, riders clinging to gossamer manes.
My father washes dishes in the kitchen.
My mother dries, and scratches at spots
with her red nails. It’s Saturday. How
they got here without me, I have no idea.
The dirt is still piled up in a frenzy above
their graves. My sister has moved in with
a man whose voice my parents disliked,
who owns a business selling something
most people don’t need, but I’ve forgotten
what, or where they live now that the city
has burned, and crows sail over the earth
like small black boats above a shipwreck
far below, half sunk and bound by weeds.
Because He Knew
Because his sons
and could balance
on a ribbon
he could smile
in the ferry, eating
a meal of grapes
and figs. Because
he knew his mind,
he lived in a brick
house and ate bread.
Because his soul
in a tree, he spoke
only of wind and rain.
His answer came
in a language
and rock crushed
and the scurrying
of rats. His daughters
bent by the shore
the bridge spanned
of foam, he held
on to the railing
and wept, his tears
floating on the water’s breast.
Listening to Wolves
Who now remembers
a body that rose
on a cold spring
night at the crossroads,
wound in a wrap
made of shadow
and mist, glistening
in the glare
of our headlights
as we drove
through the county,
listening to wolves?
Was it a body made
of darkness and rain?
How strange that I
recall only your face,
half dissolved in acid
vibrations, fear and wonder
washing our bodies clean
of time and its muddy residue.
Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared worldwide, in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Chiron, 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. His full-length collection Family Reunion is forthcoming from Big Table Publishing.