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Seventeen: Fight or Flight
by Steve Klepetar

When I was seventeen, a man almost hit me
with his car as I crossed the street
on the long hike to school. He shouted through
his window, threatened me, then jumped out, fists
large and ready, until other drivers honked him back.

What made him so mad, I’ll never know.
That I was seventeen, daydreaming lyrics
when he hit the brakes? Did his coffee spill?
Had I ruined his day, or was it already
a shamble of anger, resentment, wasted time?

He had no idea how hot I burned,
how my forehead glowed like heated steel,
how I wandered through the valley of fight
or flight. I heard his door slam, saw his tail
lights flash as he fishtailed down the street

and disappeared into the morning jumble of cars.
All day I felt him rising in me, a poison fish
churning through a muddy sea. I dangled him
from the end of my pen. In gym class I dribbled
him down the court in a fast break of rage.

At lunch, I tore his flesh and washed him down
with a carton of milk.
That night I sat strumming my guitar,
and as I played the three sweet chords I had mastered,
transformed him into a song about a catch yanked over gunwales

flopping, guttering, suffering in a language only I could understand.

PHOTO: Steve Strumming Soulfully (17).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What I remember most about being 17 is how my friends and I infuriated adults, even when we weren’t trying to. Fortunately, I had my guitar and the three chords I knew, and I could sit in my room strumming soulfully while I brooded on the injustice of it all.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared worldwide, in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Chiron, Deep Water, Expound, Phenomenal Literature, Red River Review, Snakeskin, Voices Israel, Ygdrasil, and many others. Several of his poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize (including one in 2016). Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto and The Li Bo Poems, both from Flutter Press. His collections Family Reunion is forthcoming (Big Table Publishing) and A Landscape in Hell (Flutter Press) are forthcoming in 2017.