I was born in Shanghai, China, the son of Holocaust survivors, and grew up in New York City. I now live in the booming metropolis of Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where there are a surprisingly large number of good, cheap, hole-in-the wall ethnic restaurants. Two of my four grandchildren live in town, so I get to spend a good deal of time with them, playing tag, which is sort of like running wind sprints. For over thirty years I taught in the English department at Saint Cloud State University, where the kids from Lake Woebegon go to college, and I can attest to the fact that they all are, in fact, above average. Please take a look at these two chapbooks, which are available for download at the amazingly low price of nothing: Blue Season (with poems by me and V-V regular Joseph Lisowski, and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein — click on the book titles.)
I saw anger on the avenues,
how it swelled
as traffic growled and leapt
at the heels of pedestrians,
and old women in the park
bent over their hands, waiting
for a great sea to carry them
towards a house made of shells
and glass. My shoes scraped
pavement, I was afraid to look
around at blurred faces
cracking open in gray sun
with its wrinkled heat rising
from steaming bricks.
Over and over, the sound
of trucks and the subway roaring
as I waited for sky to melt
and burn, raining its soft drizzle
onto spear point buildings rising
like teeth into the flesh of another day.
Furnace of the Sun
Above the dam, heat
dances, visible rays
shimmer from concrete.
We can’t peel away
even our hair, our skin.
and sticks, water
bottles slick in our hands
as we pound along
the river. Mosquitoes
and gnats have gone
to ground, hidden
in some tiny, shaded
grove as we race, two
into the furnace of the sun.
Another Dream of Home
This time it was a block of red
brick apartments in a less desirable
part of town, with sparse grass
planted in the small squares
and broken playground equipment
that never got fixed, green paint
peeling on hard benches where
teenagers came to smoke and drink
beer. Security lights from the school
across the street bathed the faces
of girls, turning them pale and hard.
Someone had a radio, so tinny music
bounced along the wire fence as summer
night expanded, menace strung with joy.
My name on the wall, painted
large as the figure of a man.
And then it rained.
For twelve days water spilled
from the sky. First we danced
naked in the streets, then
we rowed in our boats
to the store. Finally we climbed
to the roof, tears mingling
with wind-driven drops.
Last night the wall crumbled
adding my red name to the flood.
I Give UP
After Mark Strand
I give up my place in line, that early unmarked grave.
I give up my attitude. Here, take it. Come on, it's yours.
Whatsamatter, you don't want it? Not so big now, hey?
Yeah, I give up my parking tickets. I roll them up in a big
cardboard ball and throw them in the East River.
I give up my socks, they have holes in them anyway.
I give up my hair, little by little, year by year.
I give up my barber, his jokes suck.
I give up ketchup, or cat soup, that blue collar
condiment. I give it up reluctantly, I give it up
as a sacrament. I give up spreading it on french fries,
those deadly, crispy snakes. I give up oil and salt.
I give up the ocean, that gray-green roar, that scent
of decay breeding life. I give up sand and merry-go-rounds.
I give up baseball, that dead horsehide game. It crawls
across my t.v. I give up instant replay
of pitches that catch the inside corner, I give up
the sound of a foul tip, the ball smacking the catcher's glove.
I give up chalk. I give up the sound it makes
on the blackboard, the white residue on my hands.
I give up its alkaline smell.
I give up the detritus on my desk. With the back
of my arm I sweep it all onto the floor. And I give up
the floor and the dead rat rug lying there like a bad hairpiece.
I give up rock n' roll, I give up Vivaldi, that cagey Jesuit,
I give up my pickup truck. I give up Paris and London
and Rome. I give up New York, my home, my home.
I give up the E train, I give up Washington Square,
I give up Columbia. I have crossed the Hudson, my
Rubicon. I give up bagels and blintzes and diphthongs
and the "ng" click, which means I give up Lawn-gi-land,
which means I give up streets, which means I give up,
I give up. Which means I'll always be camping out.
Originally published in Snakeskin, June, 2008
©2016 Steve Klepetar
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