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SteveKlepetar

Our March 2016 Featured Poet


Steve Klepetar was born in Shanghai, China, the son of Holocaust survivors
and refugees. He grew up in New York City, where he attended Stuyvesant
High School. He earned a B.A. and M.A. at SUNY Binghamton (now
Binghamton University) and a Ph.D. in English at the University of Chicago.
He taught literature and creative writing for 39 years at three colleges, the
last 31 at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. Over the years he was
named Teacher of the Year a total of seven times, and received a special
award for service to students.
His 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).
He has also done several collaborations with composer Richard Lavenda of
Rice University, including a one act opera, Barricades, for which he wrote the
libretto. Klepetar is the author of a full length collection (Speaking to the
Field Mice) and eight chapbooks, the most recent of which include My Son
Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto and Return of the Bride of
Frankenstein. His eighth chapbook, The Li Bo Poems, is forthcoming in April,
2016.
The Poet's Bookshelf
1.

TheDead,JamesJoyce.

2.

MobyDick,HermanMelville

3.

JudithBeheadingHolofernes,Caravaggio(painting)

4.

WildNights,WildNights,EmilyDickinson

5.

TheSnowMan,WallaceStevens

6.

ReturnoftheHunters,PieterBreugeltheElder(painting)

7.

London,WilliamBlake

8.

TheChinesepoetLiBai(akaLiPoorLiBo)

9.

TheOdyssey,Homer

10. ThepoetAudreLorde

Collection of Poems by Steve Klepetar


Stripped of Nightmare
All night the library glows like heated steel.
Books tremble on shelves as if they would
consume themselves in flame. Outside, rain
hisses on pavement, a hurricane of darkness
and noise. Trees wail in their St. Vitas dance.
Behind walls of cloud, a great mouth grinds
its teeth. Planets roar in their orbits, sirens
wheel through the streets.
William Blake: Whater is born of mortal birth,
Must be consumed with the earth
But can there be a rising now, with molecules
shattered in a furnace of emptiness and drugs?
In the morning, squirrels return, the remaining
birds chirp without memory.
Workers wheel carts of books to be re-shelved.
How ordinary these volumes appear, lying
calmly with their faint scent of dust,
stripped of nightmare, waiting to be laid to rest.
The Last Film
The last film we saw was about a house
in the woods, with an owl circling.
After, you said you saw a painting once, in a museum
in some back street, with a Roman god
parked in front a house with a circling owl
whose white wings stretched beyond the canvas.
Its wrinkled face tickled your eyes, but the house
itself looked small and broken
crumbling with rotten boards and holes,
windows cracked and great trees dripping
above a derelict roof. You stopped for coffee then,
small, pale hands warming around the cup,
then bounded down uneven marble stairs just as
snarling guards ushered patrons out into the glowing night.

My Other Brain
Im Pro-Life,
she tells me.
Yeah, well Im
Prometheus,
but she doesnt
like puns
so she chains
me to a rock,
feeds my liver
to her pet eagle.
Its all fun
and games, this kind
of bondage, until
someone starts
spitting blood.
You should
really see a doctor,
she says. Yeah, well
and then were
at her house
holding hands.
Shes feeding
me this dinner
shes cooked
and the food is
terrible. Yeah,
says my other
brain (in Woody
Allens voice)
and such small portions.

Counting Pickups
Today Im counting
pickup trucks.
Its the Tuesday
after Labor Day
so everyones back
at work. While
the pickups
are gone from
many driveways,
there are quite a few
in the public lots
and on the street
maybe every vehicle
in tens a pickup
though sometimes
the ones with toppers
are hard to tell
from vans or big SUVs.
My friend informs me
this all ties in to Big
Data, that with
the right kind of count
and maybe a few
more data points
we could predict
droughts and elections
for ten years
or ten thousand miles.

Whichever comes first.


Grace Period
By the river, geese
gather and feed, honk
their news to changing air.
In the park, a few strollers
limp between
beds or lean on canes.
Some push walkers
along the little paved
road to circumvent steps.
Memory of heat
clings to these days,
a dream of noonday
sun firing branches.
This is the time
between gusts and flowers
fading, the White
Garden slowly rotting
in these shortening days
even as sugar maples,
oak and ash struggle
in wind to hold their green.
Waiting for the Waters
Riding waves
of caffeine, he drums
himself into new veins
of gold. Sweat beads
his forehead, night sky
glooms overhead. Now

in the city there are


no stars, only the glow
of streetlamps and
headlights, beams crushed
into spider webs by September
air. We breathe and wait.
Together we find the backbeat,
writhe, a thousand
shadows on the wall of night.
And then her voice
that wail of anguish or
delight, siren notes driving us
to the edge of madness
on the shore. The lake throbs,
vibrates as we wait for waters
to part, for black swans, for grass
to burn, for blades to melt, puddle,
and rise as steam above this prison dance.
Whats Good For You
In the park at six a.m. a girl walks
two large dogs. They stray from
the paved path out onto thick green
grass. Summers been wet enough,
not too hot, and her dogs frisk
in the cool morning air. They pull
her hard toward a flock of white birds
and she lets their leashes go. Birds rise
in a wide, white spray as the dogs dart
and careen around trees. Its good
for me to walk, they say, good to drink

a hundred ounces of water, good


not to stare directly into the sun.
They say its good to take calcium
and vitamin D, good to eat kale
and quinoa, good to reject gluten, eat
nothing with high fructose corn syrup,
have a glass of red wine and a small
dark bar of chocolate every day.
Shes got the dogs now; theyre back
on the path. It would be good for me
to climb a ladder to the moon, good
to slip through its narrow door
to some other life where owls patrolled
starless skies and mice lay in leaves
listening for breeze through feathered wings.
Alone With History
Whoever deciphers these canyon walls
remains forsaken, alone with history
Agha Shahid Ali
I recall a river cutting canyons
through layers of dusty rock, faces
torn into forlorn smiles. Sky settled
in the treetops. A village sat here once,
where this boulevard vanishes
beneath a railroad bridge, a jumble
of signs. To the west the bay jammed
with oysters; deer skittered nervously,
lapped at inland springs, alert for the
scent of wolves. Last night a shadow

came upon me, a migraine, throbbing


darkness with its lightning bolts of red.
Snow fell, but melted quickly on the iron
fence. There were rabbits once and a hundred
species of bees. You could walk across
the continent under a canopy of pine.
Mountains loomed above, and you climbed
hand over hand until muscles ached and breath
came hard. Exhausted, you rested at the top,
eyes pulled into the valley stretched below.
Your hands suffered into rough, brown
paws, your black nose snuffed revealing air.
A clutch of berries reddened your mouth.
Alone, you grasped the clouds and wind and sky.
When the Ceremony Ended
It looked as though you would rise
on useless legs, tell us all to go
to hell, to leave your last white hairs
in peace. How your green eyes
pierced that atmosphere of joy, wine
goblets filled and clinking, hot scent
of roasted meat. We were all so
hungry, but you ate shadows
in the rictus of your silent scream.
One year you swam so far out
into the cold Atlantic that lifeguards
blew their whistles and waved from
their white towers, but of course
you didnt hear. When they rowed
out to you in a double-hulled
boat, your strong strokes
had brought you near enough to safety
that they just scolded and let you swim.
Later, they surrounded your dripping
form and tried to take your pulse,

but you shouted, called them idiots


who couldnt tell a drowning man
from the champion you were.
That confrontation scarred your brow
and still I see marks of defiance radiate
from your face as we toast your dead
years, which burn and shrink and disappear.
Dazzled
Staring at bright light, our eyes
dazzle, we become incomplete.
Morning pools around our feet,
we wade through streets familiar as glass.
Here we made our first mistake,
there we lost our keys, forgot
to pay the electric bill, sang
too loudly when the moon went down.
Though we wander unknown
in broken shoes, a thousand cats
have guessed our names.
No one can tell us if we wake
or sleep, not a soul remembers
the face we asked to take us home.
Correct me if I got this wrong,
but then it seemed enough:
wind easing through cattails
or silver starlight dancing on a quiet lake.

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