He eats lunch here almost every day, stands in a long
line contemplating: peanut oil or hot sesame or something
squeezed from black mushroom or root? He rubs
his hands. Today he offers up his suit to grill, blue fibers
hissing in the wok, foaming to a glaze with bok choy,
pea pods and ears of miniature corn. He adds a hank
of graying hair, a handful of teeth from his jaunty grin.
All around the day darkens; pigeons gather on windowsills.
His mind is filled with memories and salt. Women
dance for him in a trail of limbs. A waterman, he finds
himself locked in this continent of ice. The rhythms
he feels have frozen in his blood and his hot breath
rises, forced from a dangerous mine. All the canaries
have died, the white mules rebellious and strange,
their red eyes aflame with fear. He smiles
and his greeting confirms emptiness and his childless
arms. Who are these wives he loves still, broken
fragments of some great entanglement? Whose dog
has he chased through a cluster of wild, white birds?
He thinks his home might lie in another country,
where blossoms have a different taste and every word,
mispronounced, is carved into the cavern of his open mouth.
Steve Klepetar teaches literature and creative writing at Saint Cloud State University. His work has appeared all over the U.S., as well as in Canada, England, Northern Ireland, France, Australia and India. His latest collection is Speaking to the Field Mice, recently released by Sweatshoppe Publications.
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