Devil’s Lake

Spring 2015 Issue

Steven Kleinman: The Body

The body was naked and pink.
The body was there for the taking.

Bend me here in forgiving, it said.
Here, bend me in devotion.

It was on the run through the city.
It was beyond the wall before the government building.

It was brick layered onto brick.
Bend me here, it said, and so it was bent.

We took the body through the streets
even as it ached, even as it exhausted,

we took the body by the river, bent it as
memorial. We pulled until the body said

what it would be like next time. Bend
me here some other way
, it said.

The body on the white back,
a bent tulip leaf, the body against the burnt

brick of that building where we found it.
Leave me here, we expected the body to say,

but never leave me, is what it said, the body
crawling on its hands and knees, like we wanted.


I got a lap dance
and she said it’s okay honey
& my grandparents loved
to dance
& my other grandfather
hated black men and I hated him
until he died and
when he started working
he was 14 (same as me)
and the son of an alcoholic
and they made him
carry iron ore
office to office laughing
at the Catholic boy & I watched
a man ball dollar bills
and toss them at her
like she were a dog
& given his age it must have been 1934
& in New York City
years before he stopped talking
he clicked his teeth
at a woman in a black dress
saying how much he loved
the city & my friend and I
made a “rape scale”
in which 5 is “regular rape”
and 3 is “marriage” &
on my 30th birthday
as I walked the dog
a station-wagon slowed
and someone called me
pussy and faggot and
I was wearing a blue pea coat
& it’s just that
what I wore didn’t stand out
which left me asking
what had I done
& it was dark
so who could tell
& I couldn’t tell who they were
and likely they couldn't
tell who I was & when
we were kids we’d shake up
3-liter bottles
of generic-brand soda
until they turned to stones
we could throw at cars our parents
couldn’t afford &
in the suburbs where people move
where my people moved
to stay away from “danger”
there aren’t many lights &
7 is “a frat party
without a theme”
& it’s hard to tell a joke
and it’s hard to tell if it’s a joke
& maybe the car was filled with
boys and maybe men
and maybe the men knew me
and maybe they didn’t.

STEVEN KLEINMAN is a graduate of the University of Maryland MFA program. He lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Drexel University and the Community College of Philadelphia. He has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and his poems have appeared in Hidden City Quarterly. More from this issue >