Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Poet Steve Klepetar Explores Van Gogh's Houses

Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared in such journals as Glass, Stirring, Red River 
Review, Snakeskin, Black Market Lit and many others.  Several of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.  His most 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 (forthcoming from Kind of a Hurricane Press). Klepetar teaches English literature at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. Read more on his website here

The White House at Night, 1890













Black Cat Women

After Van Gogh, The White House at Night, 1890

Black cat women on a village street, strolling
their great hips rolling, like they've forgotten
last night when they leaped lean on jagged fences
screeching with toms in the yellow moonlight.

Wakened to a feathery, tropical town, yellow-green
parrot hot, jasmine smelly with sun bouncing white
off red-roofed stucco walls, they meander baking
stones.  Their green eyes ache, squinting in blades

of light.  Today, squeezed tight into blue-green
bodices, ink black skirts, kerchiefs cover silky
wild hair tamed in tight coils, knot-topped on heads
swaying slightly up leering yellow stairs, lurching

the high street ablaze with spiky trees, stabbing
traps of shrub and neon-bright bush.  This life a day
light dream, nothing but glinting interlude before
sun sets, and black cats yowl in the colorless cool.

House With Blue Roof
House with Blue Roof, 1890


"Are there minds and interiors
of homes more important than
anything that has been expressed
by painting?  I am inclined to think so."
                                                   Van Gogh

Problem of color, of blue
and streaks of white like the bone
beneath. Of dark green and pale
translucent green, liquid
as the eyes of cats.

Inside, the rooms are dark and cool.
Wood and wicker chairs, the floors    
rubbed bare.  On the table, fruit

and wine, flowers, cheese and bread. 
Come, take the knife, cut yourself
a thick slice, sip the fragrant wine,
rough and new as what you drink at home.

Getting Calm
Saint-Paul Asylum, Saint-Remy, 1889-90

"I must not think of all that - I must
make things, even if it's only studies
of cabbages and salad, to get calm..."
                                                  Van Gogh
 1.

The vestibule arches calm and solid,
ceiling space of Romanesque vaults,
brass ponderous as quiet afternoon. 

Through open doors green day stabs
across the dried blood asylum floor,
a little rectangle of world.

This hallway is my mind, calm as arches
hunched to hold fingerprints
of sun.  Inside I count my breaths,

heavy and even, my pulse
splashing as I tally shadows,
black-stroke strong.

2.

Madmen calm sometimes, creating quiet
spaces between wild emotions of eye,
effort seldom seen.  I must not think

of screaming faces in the Cyprus trees,
heaving lines of earth, grass and hill. 
Crows rise like black checks of misery

to the seeping ink of night sky.  Corn 
burns, a fire of gold, but I must make
myself calm, painting salad in my quiet
  
room, finding design in veins of lettuce
leaf, true colors at the blend
of carrot, onion, chard.

3.

Tonight calmness will pervade
my dreams, gray rain on dark fields.
Mud sucks at my boots, blue

mountains seem to rise, like heaving
backs of earth.  I walk through wet
crops, peasant-faced, the weasel

of Saint-Remy.  I walk calmly
in the mode of love, offering what
I can: sweet young green of almond

bursting blossoms white as wedding
veils, rough-barked trunks of trees,
uneasy calm between the crows and storm.


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