Five Poems

Steve Klepetar

Just Friends

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
were tall
and could balance
on a ribbon

of smoke,
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
was lost
in a tree, he spoke
only of wind and rain.

His answer came
in a language
of soil
and rock crushed

to minerals
and the scurrying
of rats. His daughters
bent by the shore

collecting herbs.
the bridge spanned
a river

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.


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.