Steve Klepetar


New Year’s eve, 1963, lips pressed
against some lady’s slipper, my father
gargles cheap sparkling wine. “For
auld lang syne” he sings, bellowing
his harmonies over crowd noise,
“for auld lang syne, my jo…”
His voice thunders its rusty baritone
halfway between squalling cat and
barbershop quartet, his gray-green
eyes alive with something that is not
quite mirth, salacious and bawdy
and wild. He’s pulled his glasses off,
and now his face looks strange, folded
into itself, crumpled, as if someone had
tossed it at the wastebasket and missed.

Beyond the bay window, darkness rolls
out to the street, car horns blare
in midnight’s stream.
When the hostess poured sweet
bubbly over sliced, bleeding pears
and apples, purple grapes, he cried
out like a man in pain “My God,
she’s pouring champagne over jam!”
Guests roared, the hostess cooed
“ah, my gray elephant” and nuzzled
his white hair. Now his stained tongue
darts from his mouth, syrupy wine
spilling from her shoe all down his soiled
white shirt. The year opens, a rip
in the fabric of my jeans, days spilling
into weeks, a dizzy calendar swirling
in air, ashes frozen above flickering flame.

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