I can’t begin to express how deeply soul-nurturing it is for me to collaborate with such an extraordinarily generous and brilliant man and poet as Robert Okaji!
Dead Rose at 5 Points Local
(A collaborative poem written with Stephanie L. Harper)
Having plucked the disheveled
petals from the core,
for the dead to speak
of last week’s sweetness—
of damp upholstery
and worn-out shoes,
of locked chests
and the faint honey
of unrealized hope.
I twist the stem;
I quarter the seeds and
blemish the plate.
Which north rings true?
bridge reveals the lost
Our ice cubes clink
no answers, as the essences
of hibiscus, lavender,
and mint slip over my tongue,
concealing the cool
tang of her demurring
But when she says whisper,
touching her lips
with an index finger,
I hear distant trains
baying like wolves,
and smell the char of nights
trailing the undiminished
river, its waters flowing
in every possible
* * *
“Dead Rose at 5 Points Local” first appeared in
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My poem, “Psychedelic,” is enjoying some lovely company during this week’s installment of Poetry Wednesday at Prometheus Dreaming! Thank you to editor David van den Berg for selecting this piece.
Pressing into the Depths
of an old-growth oak grove on your search for virgin peat having naturally preemptively considered the human calcaneus poised on its subcutaneous fat pad (the sturdy lovechild as it were of evolution & bipedal ambulation); you go whole-soled knowing nature engenders no freaks & that the point of weight-bearing actually is to sink-spring to life your very own rooted upward mobility—to elapse your mossy quiet’s once upon a time into cantilevered boom to mushroom & split your bark like a seething green superhero (who leaves you in tatters) harden yourself new gnarls to gather lichens & ever after phosphoresce the midnight fog like a moonbeam striking your cast-off glass slipper
The inimitably brilliant, insightful, and sensitive Daniel Paul Marshall has written a gorgeous review of my new chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament! Please take a look, and consider pre-ordering a copy for just $6.50 each!
The Death’s Head’s
continues on from Stephanie’s previous book This
Being Done & fortunate for us Stephanie is in the present progressive,
hammering out the dimensions of poems. The poems here continue to wade in the
difficulties of womanhood, family, child-rearing, love, life, memory &
is wakeful invention, an intellectual alacrity, sure-footedness even on the
tremulous ground of the heart in the track of each advancing line. Something
common-place, is elevated to heightened importance if only for it being what it
is: a potential for articulation & loving.
the morbidity of the title, I hope (well-founded on the verve of being a
life-bringer & cultivator, which Stephanie wears unashamedly on her sleeve)
that Stephanie isn’t concerned as Roy Fisher expresses in Poplars that“I think I
am afraid of becoming a cemetery of performance.” Stephanie’s performance is to
Stephanie sets off from a harbour in…
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What a Patriot Dreams
I saw the flags come down—
their masts falling like the trees
flattened by shockwaves
in those clips of old footage
from military nuclear bomb tests,
spliced into high school history documentaries.
They weren’t projected celluloid etchings
that teenagers confined to plastic chairs
could summarily cancel
with one hand motioning No
in the universal vernacular…
Caught in a wash of floodlights
on the indigo summer dusk,
the red-white-blue swaths crushed
in on themselves like torn parachutes,
& all vanished at once—deposed
by morning’s first, grainy insinuations
that breached the blinds’ periphery,
& accreted into a single, silent force
creeping along my bedroom walls,
as if to thwart illumination:
In this country of my own
birth & citizenship, I’ve, in turn,
given birth to two, precious children—
my riven heart’s two halves now trussed
in a spectacular fiasco of feathers & wax.
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
“What a Patriot Dreams” was first published (in slightly different form) in the November 2018 issue of CatheXis Northwest — thank you to editor C. M. Tollefson for selecting this piece for inclusion in your beautiful journal — and appears in my newest chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament, available NOW for pre-sale purchase for the fantastic price of $6.50 per copy (currently slated for release in April 2019)!
CLICK THIS LINK to my author page at Main Street Rag, which includes commentary on and sample poems from The Death’s-Head’s-Testament, to order your copy today, that the poetry gods shall smile on you for all the rest of your days!!
Our favorite poet, Robert Okaji, is truly at his finest in this “luminous” collection! Order his must-read chapbook today!
The publication date for I Have a Bird to Whistle (7 Palinodes) is February 25, and Luminous Press is currently offering copies for $7.50, shipping included, to U.S. addresses, through the 24th. Unfortunately, Luminous doesn’t ship internationally, but I will take care of those orders myself.
Contact me at aBirdtoWhistle@yahoo.com for orders to be shipped outside the U.S.
Twenty years ago
I received a birthday gift
from a close college buddy-slash-sometime lover
(What on earth were we thinking?).
Back then, our past was already in the past
& twenty-four was already not young.
He gave me a coffee mug
covered in chickens—
yes, painted chickens—
three plump specimens posed around the outside,
& one that looks like an index finger
with an eye, a comb, a beak, & a wattle,
slapped onto the bottom.
How, I can’t fathom,
but my friend knew that those chickens
with their orange-red, expressionistic bodies
would be a boat-floater for me—
the one time I had slept with him
had been an epic shipwreck,
with a silent drive to the airport in its wake;
on the way, we choked down pancakes,
& I stifled sobs in my coffee,
averting my eyes
from the helpless horror in his.
I then flew off into the wild, wide sky,
Somehow, for years to come,
his southern gentlemanly charms
still served to allure:
he kept his promise to write
& took pains to catalogue for me
the details of his worldly escapades
& various, accompanying sexual conquests,
always making sure to emphasize
the ways in which they were hot for him,
so as to prove those trysts’ relative rightness.
Then, years later, for my birthday,
came the unexplainably gratifying
Still burning hot
& feathered in their chili-pepper red,
royal purple & verdant green cloaks,
my static & impossibly happy
blush like lovers on a Grecian urn;
My southern gent,
now so long ago flown from this callous coop,
wooed another & had his own brood,
as, in due course, did I,
but the mug, no worse for wear, remains
a spectacular feature—
like a bright birthday piñata
(with its promise of sweet reward)—
of my sacred morning ritual.
still ecstatically surprised,
letting out unabashed, open-beaked caterwauls,
adorn my most aged & prized coffee mug;
a vessel, perfectly-sized,
it cups its contents so adoringly,
like an egg enveloping its cache of gold,
as I take privileged sips.
The big chicken on the left
might actually be a rooster,
& that one on the bottom,
a middle finger.
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
“Painted Chickens” appears in my new chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament, scheduled for release in March 2019. If you like what you’ve seen so far, please take advantage of Main Street Rag Publishing Company’s fantastic pre-order sales offer of $6.50 per copy while it lasts, and feel great about your generous support of this enormously grateful poet!
Place your order HERE today!
My poem, “Salt,” (just scroll down) is live at the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, the “love” issue, just in time for Valentine’s Day! Many thanks to editors Steve Gordon and Terri Lynn Cummings for sensitively engaging with and selecting this piece for publication.