Friday, June 21, 2013

Steve Klepetar


I keep it in a box under my bed,
the other face, scarred and broken

along cheekbones and nose, as if
a hundred bee stings worried the skin

or thorns tore at exposed flesh.
The one I wear, the mirror tells me,

smiles, and sometimes speaks too softly
to be heard. In photographs it almost

disappears behind a graying beard
and brown eyes revealing nothing:

no emptiness or cliffs or jagged edges
where crows might have pecked or cats

scratched or winter wind chaffed
the forehead raw. It’s an elastic face,

made for wondering or listening
to the droning drumbeat of another voice.

The other face will not keep still.
Awake it scuffles and rolls and bumps,

squeezing semi-human sounds through
lips and teeth and tongue, a little hurricane

of need beyond control – nest of hair,
puffy eyes, web of veins – wrestling

to break free, claim at last its lost body,
howling red syllables to the terrifying moon.


When windows melt and all light
becomes trapped and darkness
oozes, thick syrup on evening’s
rosebud lips. Then you might
wonder where solid walls have
gone, or stone floor and comforting
roof. Your eyes may tell you one
thing, a kind of cunning tale,
but skin will open to a bruised
and wilder truth
formed from scratches your fingers
can almost taste, musical notes
flaming into sound, new instruments
weaving a universe bound by strange
gravity, singing songs frozen in a different key.


The last cowboy waits by the side of the road.
He waits for dust storms and elk.
He waits in the heat for smoke and dead clichés.
Sometimes he carries an armful of leaves, sometimes
his lips seem to curl, and then the moment passes.
He has sold his guns to a museum
that would rather have had his bowed legs
and hatchet chin.
His horse is a system of clean, white bones.
He can whistle like a lark or cry out in the language
of prairie hens. He has watched his angry friends
melt into hemlock and ash.
He has swung through the doors of the last saloon.
He is ready to swim to shore, to feast on salmon,
like some old bear deserting his winter cave.
His boots are nearly whitened by dust,
his pearl button shirt ridiculous and out of style.
His face, if you can call it that, is blurry with sweat.
He has no eyes. His nose has been burnt off
in the flame of the sun, his mouth, that organ
of broken teeth and lies, has passed into memory,
forgetful of whiskey and the delicate art of being cruel.

© Steve Klepetar 2013

Steve Klepetar's work has appeared widely and has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His book, Speaking to the Field Mice, was recently published by Sweatshoppe Publications.

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