We built in the desert on a dome of sand,
rent the flesh of this dead, dry earth, scarred
its quiet body with pits and jagged cuts.
We sold our eyes to the wind, its dry breath
whining in our sleepless ears. We twisted
wild rivers to our command, sprinkled lawns
as shallow roots clung to crushed rocks,
thirsty fish drowning in a small boat
in the glaring sun. All day our skin burned
to copper dust. Now in the temples of bone
we leave offerings of hair and nails
and wrinkled fruit from bushes that whisper
“nothing you value lives, you’re out of time.”
Above our heads, the stars flick out. Blood
leaks over arid hills. Nomads roam our cities,
reptiles suck moisture from grubs and worms.
Li Bo Pawns His Watch
We walk into the pawnshop off Division, the one
right by the rib place. I think we’re shopping
for cheap DVD’s but Li Bo slides a gold watch
from his thin wrist, slaps it on the counter.
He looks the owner in the eye. “How much for this?”
“Dude,” I say in my best Mandarin, “don’t pawn
your dad’s watch! If you’re short, I can help you out.”
I peel some twenties from my roll. “This watch is nothing
but bad luck,” he tells me (inserting an untranslatable
adjective that has something to do with a water buffalo
and a wooden flute) between “This” and “watch.”
“My father was a time thief, kept a stash of days
piled up in the garden shed. Every once in awhile
I’d clip an hour or two. That’s why I did so well
in school, without seeming to crack a book.
Extra time, man. But now the karma’s catching up.
Editors don’t even answer my queries. This watch
has gotta go.” The guy offers two hundred; Li Bo
pockets the cash. “Let’s go to the Red Carpet.”
Next week we meet up for ribs.
“Got seven poems accepted, and a chap coming out,”
he says, barbecue sauce all over his mouth.
I shake my head. “Huh. Congratulations, man.”
With my Swiss Army knife, I undo the back of my dead
watch, spill a tablespoon of Polynesian seawater
onto the grubby tabletop. Now it ticks merrily
as I wipe the table down. The rib guy comps us on desert
and we stumble out into the evening, fat and happy
as poets fed on pork and time and the language of birds.
Steven Klepetar lives and write in Saint Cloud, MN, where spring comes slowly. His work has appeared in nine countries, in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Deep Water, Antiphon, Red River Review, Snakeskin, Ygdrasil, and many others. Several of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent collections include Speaking to the Field Mice (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013), My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press, 2013) and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (Kind of a Hurricane Press).