Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998
Poems by Steven F. Klepetar
My Father at the Window
Again the house, with its enormous, wistful roof.
Again that clearing in the woods, where the path
ends and the house rises like smoke.
Again my eyes tear, and I choke to breathe
among cinders and flame.
My father stands at the window, burning.
He has come back again to claim his place
beneath the silver lamp.
He drinks a dry martini as he reads,
tells me again that he is afraid
of Virginia Woolf.
His face looks blurred, as though it hid
some other face, one that laughed at mirrors
on a train. Again he speaks to me in Latin,
which makes him seem wise.
Once at the bakery, he translated for a man
who knew only French, and another time
a sad young woman told him she wanted to learn Czech
so she could read Kafka in the original. "German," he said,
"learn German," and she trembled in the wind and was gone.
My father took me to the park,
where the carousel wheeled
in a glorious charge of unicorns,
tigers and elephants, all in silver
armor or chain mail, and he pointed
to the chariot drawn by camels
with long faces burning in green
mist. "There," he said, "between
the flanks of those terrifying beasts."
When the music stopped, I climbed
on, and trembling, held the reins,
spoke softy, stuttering commands
to those lightning lords. I whispered
as if their hardened backs, those humps
of frozen chaos, could ever be safe
or tame to the touch of human hands.
God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
Here I am, a little late in the snow,
skidded to a stop in front of the house,
poorly parked, but in this storm,
who cares? Carrying wine and bread,
slipping through a line of footprints
leading to the door. Crowd of colleagues
I see every day, early darkness wrapped
around the street. Music blaring –
Joan Baez Christmas carols.
There's bright red punch with a vodka kick,
a huge smoked turkey, salads and cakes
and salty cookies decorated on paper plates.
Blue and white tree, an angel like a slender
Valkyrie swooping from the topmost branch.
We're a festive group, but unhappy too,
the world lurching more wildly than usual
out of control. It's on the faces, worried, angry,
still gob-struck after all these months.
Just then the hostess approaches, smiling.
"Does it make you feel uncomfortable
to be the only Jew at a Christmas party?"
Joan's voice fills the long pause:
"God rest ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing
you dismay." "Well, no," I answer, "not until just now."
Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has appeared worldwide in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Chiron, Deep Water, Expound, Muddy River Poetry, 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 four in 2016). New collections include A Landscape in Hell (Flutter Press), Family Reunion (Big Table Publishing), and "How Fascism Comes to America" (Locofo Chaps).