I’m extremely lucky to be a visiting scholar at the University of Notre Dame, Australia, along with my wife, who is directing a study abroad program for a group of sixteen students from the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University in Minnesota. We are living in Fremantle, a really lively town about 22 kilometers from Perth, the most isolated city in the world. It’s been glorious, and some of the local imagery has seeped into my work.
What Grows in the Sand
What grows in the sand but exiles and shades?
What wonders leak from the azure sky?
My father came on a cloud, singing
in his wild voice, recalling the words of home.
His satchel was full of bones, and he carried
on his back a dead land.
He rode over the sea and shadows
followed. They ate at his flesh
and worried his sleep.
By the time he reached the shore,
my father was old, older than words
carved on the colossus guarding that harbor,
older than the steel in her ribs.
There are flowers made of steel
that grow in their violet beauty, and hands
that fashion trees made of silk or wood.
Some gentle voices persist, like rain
in the spring or birdsong in the welcoming trees.
My father ate ice, he ate leaves, he ate scratches
on the table. He left for work and came home
swimming in secrets and mist.
What grows in the sand by the beautiful wall?
Only his voice, only shadows of a missing life,
and a country that dissolved in his ancient palms.
Where This Takes Us
Our child rests between us, but she’s awake and looking
toward the east, where shadows drove us hard.
Before we climbed up on this slippery back, we
watched a small dog running by the river chasing birds.
They were white and strange, with faces like burned cork,
and they wheeled in the sky like a single giant wing.
And then we lost sight of them as we walked,
further from home with every step. We ate at the roots
of a eucalyptus tree, and the sun warmed our faces
until sleep dented our eyes, but we pressed on
into a meadow. The beast swept down and bowed
as if we were expected guests, even dressed as we were,
for hard travel and long days. You have seen us like this,
sitting on benches at the railroad station or waiting
for a bus to take us to another town, with our names
carved on our wrists, our heads bowed slightly as we come,
strangers again, into a land where no one we know
is buried in the boneyards, no school bears our ancestral name.
Here’s What Climbs From the Sea
A creature made of nets and eyes,
a creature that swallows sand,
and sings from a thousand mouths,
whispering to sea wall and waves.
A creature you meet in your dreams
when the world has grown
too heavy to love, strange and distant
as a country you never knew,
with a border of wire and nails.
It climbs from the sea with a hunger
unmatched by the wind, and gulls
sail away from its lust and rage.
Now, when monsters have moved
inside and you find yourself alone
with the night, and dark claws
moving in the sand, now you will need
a place to stand, a territory to defend,
a lamp to hold high against the brutal
noise, even if it means swimming
in the surging waves,
braving the terrors of an endless sea.
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© 2017 Steve Klepetar