Moon Cake

Moon Cake

For Mike

My sixteen year-old daughter wants
dessert at ten o’clock on a Friday night,
so right there & then, her dad tells her to grab
the baking recipe book, has her check
the cabinet & fridge for ingredients,
helps her assemble the list, & proceeds to haul
their two derrieres to the grocery store.

I come home, a bit cranky, from a mandatory
parents’ meeting at the kid’s acting school
about things I’ll be hard-pressed to remember,
to the exuberant sounds of eggs being cracked
on a mixing bowl’s rim, bags rustling, a ring
of plastic measuring spoons clacking together,
an ancient, unwieldy electric mixer splattering
sugared butter across the kitchen, & two voices
bantering in their exclusive dialect of contentment.

The oven signals the completion of its preheating cycle,
& the girl capably slides the glass bowl filled with
white batter—yes, they’ve even separated the egg yolks
from the whites at nigh eleven o’clock at night—to create
a cake in the shape of a half-sphere, which will, of course,
be covered with frosting (covered, to my mind, generally being
the operative word)—though, not just any frosting, you see,
but a certain grey shade of frosting, because this is not just
any cake now baking at long-past-eleven o’clock at night…

& so it remains for the half-sphere to be tipped out
of its Pyrex to cool in the vacuum of space; next, to be
bombarded with ice cream scoopers of multiple sizes
to simulate the impact craters on the satellite’s surface
(while wry husband offers me bites of “ejecta” to snack on);
& finally, for the halved planetoid’s pocked regolith to receive
its lifeless lacquer—at which point, awash in the lunar sunrise
of my daughter’s one o’clock in the morning smile, I will consider
the myriad aims of which I’ve spent my decades falling short;
that is, until I suddenly have the presence of mind to realize,
by god, I’ve done something right in this life—

the precious girl I brought into this world
has a dad who can give her the moon.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Moon Cake” was drafted during the May 2017 Tupelo Press 30/30 project.

On Seeing

Moose Lips!

“What we say we see says a lot about who we are.” – Ocean Vuong

“Why is no one ever looking when I use air quotes?”  – Matthew Harper

Sunspots through cloud-cover
Moose lips
Butterfly fuzz
Honey bees kissing lavender stalks
Spring breezes blowing cottonwood seeds into drifts 

Convection popcorning in the flame-blue east
Summer shimmering hayfield-rivers
Dust-devils whirling out of a midday calm
A dragonfly poised above a stagnant pond
its wings “wiggling—they don’t flap” 

The spider     like Godzilla’s more graceful cousin
terrorizing the webcam’s livestream
of pedestrians on a bridge over the Willamette
attended by the oblivious
broadcasts of a classical radio station 

A mother skunk trailed by three kits
emerging at midnight from the greenspace
across the street—their bottle-brush tails
going vertical    as my son    quivering
encroaches with his camera—
& erring on the side of sweet mercy     again 

A one & a half twisting layout somersault
from a trampoline—lights swirling in figure-eights
fifteen feet above the ground

Moose lips     & butterfly fuzz

The ease of every convoluted moment

The relative difficulty of ease

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Butterfly Fuzz 3

Photos by Matthew Harper 

 

elegy (20171129)

Out of the ashes of heartbreak rises the phoenix of poetry. A brilliant piece by the illustrious Charles Payne on the recent loss of his pooch, Bodhi.

Words and Feathers

i pass through a cold spot
the paranormal experts
tell me this is a sign
some formerly corporeal being

is absorbing energy because
it wishes to communicate
or otherwise engage
with a world of mucus-leaking
sacks of wobbly flesh

who’s a good boy?

i don’t discourage the flickers
at the edge of my vision
the sound of jangled tags
the clacking of long toenails

happy to ride a bus
i’ll get off only when they make me
without a known destination

still

lately i gaze
out the window at a soft horizon
and feel the need for heaven

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The Rabbit

rabbit

Once upon a midday gleaming, as the sun perched, eager-seeming,
Above my homestead’s weedy patches of forgotten sod,
Whilst I sighed, wondrous with gloom—oh, how that sky did fiercely loom!—
Upon my yard’s bedraggled flora a brown-grayish rabbit gnawed—
With a certain pluck & gusto, chose its clumps, & briskly gnawed,
Ever mindful as it trod.

I presumed it was a visitor from lettuce fields abroad,
For it was fuzzy, quick & small, cute as a little cotton ball,
But unlike any other rabbit that I’d ever seen before…
I distinctly don’t recall if it was springtime, or late fall—
Where I live, these stark environs kind of always look like fall—
Lacking features to enthrall.

Soon, my feelings started seeping—the way shadows take to creeping—
From their places of safekeeping, ‘til they lumbered into view
(As for that moment’s peace I’d sought, when with my sanctuary wrought,
I’d crawled inside to stay—& stayed much longer than I knew,
It could’ve dried & blown away, for all I really knew…)—
& there was nothing I could do…

Now, the rabbit, on grasses chewing—my soul eschewing—is my undoing:
My vain attempts to woo it hither churn up far too much ado,
So, I’m here, just sitting, stewing, my years accruing (they keep accruing)
Of the untold days’ ensuing—garish sunlight streaming through
(When all is said & done, I’ll bet that sun just seeps right through!);
I’d also swear that fur-ball grew!

With this craving so unnerving, I will wither undeserving
Of even one, small, savory serving of Hasenpfeffer stew…
My wee compadre, to be sure, won’t soon be rapping at my door:
I could with doleful tears implore, writhing prostrate on the floor
(It wouldn’t give two shits if I dried up right on this floor…),
Yet to hunger, evermore!

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Here’s to art imitating poetry imitating poets imitating life—or something like that…

Thanksgiving

Wild Turkey

The birds have been beheaded, stripped of togs.
 The winter squash has made it to the store.
Cranberries left behind Wisconsin bogs.
Potatoes are appreciated more.

We’ll gather at the table for our spread,
& hungry mouths will start to salivate:
“Please pass the butter!”––“Don’t forget the bread!”––
“I’ll take a breast!”––“Pile taters on my plate!”

To celebrate abundance with respect
for those who till the soil & reap the wheat––
we’ll drug them up with tryptophan’s effect,
& top it off with pie to call it sweet…

Then, pants unbuttoned, lying on the floor,
we’ll muster up the strength to eat some more!

I stepped into the Wayback Machine to retrieve this one! Wishing you and yours out there in WordPress land a blessed Thanksgiving recovery! Since I’m decidedly NOT thankful for the genocide of Native Americans that is an irredeemable blight on our Nation’s past (not that we’re doing so hot in the present, either), I’ve been thinking of  this day as a remembrance of everything that’s wholesome, just, good purely for goodness’ sake, and enriching in this life! Thanks, fellow bloggers and friends, for your abiding, positive presence in cyberspace, and for making a difference for me, and for each other! With love to all!

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Lynne Burnette’s New Poetry Chapbook!

Congratulations, Lynne!

I’m so pleased for poetess extraordinaire, Lynne Burnette, that her poetry chapbook, Irresistible, is now available for pre-publication order at Finishing Line Press! Check out Lynne’s gorgeous poetry on her blog, HERE, and please consider ordering your very own copy of her book!

#PoetryLives!

Lynne Burnett

Now available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/irresistible-by-lynne-burnett/
As the pressrun is determined by advance sales, reserving your copy between now and January 12, 2018 would make a huge difference! My book’s actual release date is March 9, 2018.

What they’re saying:

Lynne Burnett is astonishing. I cannot think of another poet who writes with more humanity. Wisdom is a word we seldom associate with poetry, but she reminds us that simply seeing the world the way it is can be a profoundly moral and life affirming act.  It’s what happens when compassion marries irony. The love child is this wondrous little book.” —D.G Geis, author Fire Sale (Tupelo Press/Leapfolio) and Mockumentary (Main Street Rag).

The poems inside Lynne Burnett’s chapbook live up to the collection title. Irresistible. Here is a poet demonstrating her considerable talents. There is much music and rhythm in these…

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Hallowed

Halloween1

Tonight is the night for a sinister scene:
When the bare trees bask in the full moon’s light,
the spirits will stir, for tonight’s Halloween.

The spiders start spinning their squalor so keen,
 while witch-chants crescendo in vanishing light,
 because it’s the night for a sinister scene!

As fog tricks our senses to sense the unseen
death throes of autumn—October’s last fight—
the spirits will stir, for tonight’s Halloween.

Gorging on sweets ‘til our faces turn green,
we party with all of our fake-blood-soaked might—
we’re ready, all right, for a sinister scene!

From ether of frothy libations we glean
a strange sort of yen for a terrible fright:
The spirits will heed, for tonight’s Halloween!

Our most hallowed guests, the shadows, have been
witness to all of our wrongs not set right…
Tonight is the night for a sinister scene!
Make way for the spirits—tonight’s Halloween!

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

My poem, “Imprisoned,” is up at Claudius Speaks

Thank you to the editors at Claudius Speaks Journal for including my poem, “Imprisoned,” in their themed issue (IV), Flight! You can read this poem in full as it appears in my forthcoming chapbook, THIS BEING DONE (Finishing Line Press), below:

lock-and-key

Imprisoned

Now is not the time
for my fettered    titanium lines—

no time for me to claim
I know a thing or two about life
as if I were anyone’s keeper…

A “suicidally depressed” convict doing life for murder
petitioned my psychotherapist friend to treat him:

& so it was that with all the detached generosity
a wife & mother of three could muster     she rendered
a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder
even as his icy eyes ignited in her a germ of lust
that razed every trace of her in a sudden flush

Now is really not the time for idle moralizing
about prisoners     or locks & keys     as if
there were any kind of justice in poetry

It’s not the time for tying up loose ends
saving pennies for rainy days     or chrysalizing
our wrinkly little walnut meats to pupate belief
in the virtue of counting the hours

Now     the dragon is awake
blinking in the daylight of withering dreams
wagging her head in a gnashing rage

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

Matthew in the Fountain

 

In the Fountain 1999

August 1999, age 14 months

In the spray’s scattering
of afternoon rays
           you pass before the sun
a toddling pointed-toe satellite
eclipsing all
but its faint red ghost

Summer haloes you in sun-white down
mottling the concrete’s cool glisten
like a memory from the womb

Watching the world swim into focus
in your smart brown eyes
           your round cheeks
flushing with the kisses of angels
showering from the sky          I realize
in a shutter’s split-second
                          I’ve traversed eternity

My child    you burst open my heart like the sun
bursts infinitely open each fountain drop

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

This poem appears in my chapbook, THIS BEING DONE, forthcoming with Finishing Line Press, someday (I’ve been hearing that they’re experiencing some delays…). The little cherub featured above, in one of the only decent photos I’ve ever taken in my life (in that the subject isn’t my own thumb, or some stranger’s butt), is my son, Matthew, who’s now 19 (oy!), and whose prowess as a photographer did not come from me. I’ve previously shared an example of his amazing work on the blog HERE.

Dilated

house finch

To think that we see
them so often     yet so rarely consider
how those piebald songbirds     so at home
on a snow-scape in their portable parkas
are made of the exact same stuff we use
to fill up our electric sky      & shocking
watermelon nylon winter coats     which must be
designed expressly for us to go out there looking
ridiculous     not to mention callous (clothed     as it were
in outright exploitation)—is the thing I’m pondering
as I observe through the window a little house finch
all feathery & poofed with his flushed cheeks
flitting over the snowy patio     pecking among the abandoned
bench-feet for invisible     if not entirely non-existent
morsels     & hawking an air of self-possession that is obvious
even to me in my current     incapacitated state

As for whether the red-crowned
retina specialist who conducted my examination
was young &/or fetching     the prospect was relatively murky
(the simultaneity of his brisk entrance with the climax
of my dilation expertly flourished by his robust clasping of my
hand     had inspired my conjecture that he might’ve been both)
& you’d better believe all bets were off the very moment
the white-cloaked     smeary hulk of him ambushed my defenseless
retinas with an impossibly aggressive radiant device
thus affording me the pivotal elucidation:
that a). the anomaly on my fundus autofluourescence images
is simply an unremarkable patch of variegated pigmentation
b). it was only natural to expect that the definition
of such a lexical wonder as variegated would elude the layperson
& c). I am indeed obliged by gratuitous pigeonholing
to take categorical offense

Not that I’m usually so bold
as to co-opt medical jargon     but I’m pretty certain
variegated is the only word that could aptly
account for what’s right now comprising
the better part of my visual experience
as embodied by this polka-dotty
aberration     also known as a scone
I resorted to purchasing in the hospital café
thus affording myself the pivotal illusion:
that a). I’m quite absorbed in an earnest task
while waiting here in the lobby for my ride
b). I wouldn’t otherwise be averting
my freakish     black gaze from passersby
& c). I’m the kind of person
who always smiles at everyone     as if to say
I accept you for who you are no matter what…    
 
From its orange piquancy
I’ve gathered that the scone’s dark splotches must
be cranberries—however vainly their vaguely moist
sweet-tang serves to redeem their crumbly substrate’s
alleged alimentary function

Still     the finch remains
staunchly committed to my functional blindness
as if by sheer force of his impending command
its concomitant scone-silage would transcend
the glass     & sift to the frozen ground

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

It may not surprise you to learn that I wrote this poem in January 2017, while brooding over a certain sociopolitical debacle. This is its first exposure to the light of day…