“This is the one we called
Bird of the Dead, Double Bird
Who feeds on Carrion”
Why do I recall a single face of all
the faces bobbing on that Manhattan
street on a summer night? Its hair
flamed against darkening sky. I walked
hand in hand with someone else,
sweating in July heat. We had finished
planting in Borough Park, knees
of our jeans smeared with mud, voices
all around us a blur of conversations:
“It was a great marriage,” someone said.
“I’ve been his patient for twenty-eight years.”
And there she was, bird of the dead, perched
on a Lexington Avenue lamppost, double bird
with faces twisted out of tune, one smooth
with sparkling eyes and a red mouth for swallowing
tongues, the other gray and wrinkled as a grave.
She fed on carrion. Around our feet, the ocean
spread, sand and foam and bits of broken shell.
“What I want is this poem to be small,
a ghost town
on the larger map of wills.”
It doesn’t take much of nothing
to roll down the street, turn
the bank to dust with its ledgers
still open, crumbling on a metal desk.
Only a wind soaked in brine
or a hundred coaxing voices
with words dangling from stringers,
bleeding at the mouth.
At the Post Office, ghost steps
shuffle impatiently, all the letters
dead. Frozen boxes line one wall,
but all the posters gone.
Where the miners lived you can see
boarded windows, jagged holes
in the floors, an open well with frayed
rope, but no bucket tied to the end.
Maybe there’s a wailing in the night,
some kind of mourning song
or just wind and dark wings
of bats fluttering among the attic joists
Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared widely, and several of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press) and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (Kind of a Hurricane Press).