On the Snowy Street
Whitman wore a bright green coat as he passed me on the street.
He nodded but did not speak.
Keats ambled by. He smiled and looked up at the clouds.
“Listen to the wind,” he said, and then he was gone,
down to the river as snow began to fall.
Soon streetlights ignited, and everything was calm –
the sky and snow sweeping by.
The great grey river wound around the town.
Vendors were out, selling knishes and kabobs,
but all the books were getting soaked.
I bought a watch and felt the cold beneath its metal strap.
A woman in a long fur coat approached, asked if I knew
where a coffee shop might be, so I sent her three blocks south.
I hoped she would arrive before the dawn.
I hoped they would welcome her with donuts and cream.
The city hummed like a radiator or a singer warming up her voice.
Ghost poets gathered on the snowy street.
I saw their shadows, I saw their shining eyes.
If you listened, you could almost hear silence
in the words they wouldn’t speak, in graceful gestures of their gloveless hands.
There was the bay and oil on its surface shining.
It made a rainbow light, and above in the grey sky,
a circling of gulls.
My mother asked if I was cold.
She shivered though her coat was warm.
We walked to the water’s edge.
She told me about her mother,
how she climbed a mountain
as the only woman in a company of men.
“She loved my sister more,” my mother said,
“though I was the one who stayed with her.”
We tossed bread on the waters, we watched the ripples roll in.
My mother’s voice was a ladder I had to climb,
rung after rung, until I broke through the roof of this unfinished house.
Stay out lazy starling, stay in your leafless tree.
I’m working here, trying to get things done.
While the sun shines, I haul baskets to the garden,
listen to the radio. All night I dreamt of rain,
river water rising to the bottom of the bridge.
I was a child, and someone strong carried me
on her back all the way down the hill,
splashing in puddles until grass disappeared
and sodden ground became a stream.
Noisy starling at the window, and I woke
wondering where I was, how I came to be
sleeping here, old and full of dreams.
I breakfasted on fruit - berries and milk.
I sang an old song about a barrel and a jar,
a raven flying through a hole in the sky.
I couldn’t hit the high notes, so I spoke the words,
calling on the holy ones to bless my being here.
It was a day like salt and honey, you know the kind,
when morning lingers like the taste of apples on your tongue.
Steve Klepetar lives in the Shire (Berkshire
County, in Massachusetts, that is). His work has appeared widely and has
received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. He is
the author of fourteen poetry collections, including Family Reunion and The Li
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