I have opened the door to our meeting
next week, here in this bare conference
room, empty of coats. With the key I
found lodged in the snow near a broad
oak’s gray roots, I slipped the lock of past
time and drew you with me, here where
the future waits bent over its little bowl
of cream. Gently I pet its sleek coat
and, quite naturally, the future purrs
and I am comforted again. You emerge
from the well of time a little dazed, as if
you’d wakened from a dream – your father
offering mints from a ragged roll
pulled from his briefcase, smelling
of leather and cold. How kind his face,
how deep his longing for your success.
How seriously he takes your little
triumphs, multiplied by some mysterious
factor in his European brain.
Somewhere on a stage you stand, shy
and modest as ever, smiling as the Dean
(or is it the Mayor or some dignitary
with a smooth black coat) hands over
some prize – a snow white paper with blood
red seal or plaque of black granite set in wood,
your honorific etched on its gleaming face.
Turning to Stone
One night I turned to stone
bathing in glaciers of the moon.
So quiet then, and all the soldiers
sleeping on their pillows of sand.
We were hard then, and still,
not accustomed yet to the way our
blood congealed in cold blankets of sky.
I consulted my wrist, I asked my neck
how it would breathe and swell.
Even now, I wouldn’t count the stars
or pretend my restless feet were roped
with veins. Even when every whisper
serves another purpose in my twisted
ear, I will not pull sullen geese
around the northern rim of earth.
I will not stand bare-headed in the cold
nor offer rescue to patient worms.
Above a flash of cinders, guilt rises in smoky
swirl. What will I pull from the reed bed
when my arms can barely dangle
at my side? Even in this dream’s
dim light, I penetrate the secret name.
Today I own this granite face,
today embrace this hair of schist and shale,
this strange, quartzite body,
this voice transformed and hardened into glass.
Gates of Paradise
How long have we hunched here, backs
pressed against these bars
of bone? Some kind phantom marks
the rubble at our bleeding feet, consoles
our hungry ears with fables of home.
How long have we sung these wailing
psalms at the icy faces of stars? Mowers
hum in heat-drenched August grass
and tree tops sway in their maidenly dance.
Almost everyone we know is gathered
here beside the river
of indifference, cursing in their hasty
clothes the name of newts and milk and mud.
We wake late to headache light
where someone has paid our swollen
bill and left a crumpled twenty
for the maid. We lift our eyes, drink spirit
water from a plastic glass. Outside
our window a fire sword dances in glacial wind.
Where is that lovely fjord encrusted with blue
tinged ice? How far will the shelf of earth recede?
Here at the gates of Paradise midnight jugglers
haunt fire-lit ground and dog shadows sniff
the margins, high bush cranberry, wild grape vine.
By love’s burning ropes we are bound.
Cats wind ginger tails round slippery fingers of dawn.
~ Steve Klepetaris Professor of English and Faculty Director of Advising at Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, MN. This is his first appearance in Elegant Thorn Review.