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…

Painted Chickens

chicken mug

Photo of actual coffee mug in question, circa 1994.

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,
bewildered, drowning.

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, came the birthday gift—
the unexplainably gratifying
chicken cup.

Still burning hot
& feathered in their chili-pepper red,
royal purple & verdant green cloaks,
my static & impossibly happy
aphrodisiac chickens
blush like lovers on a Grecian urn;

clucking, urgent.

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.

These chickens,
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,
fiercely,
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
Chicken with attitude

“Painted Chickens” was first published in the winter 2014 edition of Sixfold magazine.  I was inspired to post it on the blog today by a dream I had the other night involving a brood of chickens who were all trying to ingratiate themselves to me with their eggs, all of which were severely malformed and/or proportionally impossible to have been laid by the given, proud clucker presenting it. One of the eggs gifted to me was shaped like a tiny, raw roast that fit in the palm of my hand. Trying not to snub this sweet avian’s generosity, I remarked, with all the casualness I could muster, “Oh, it looks like this one isn’t quite done yet,” and I gently set it back in the nest. From the slapped expression on my friend’s feathered little face, however, I’m pretty sure she knew the score… A viable analysis of this one as yet eludes me, so I’m definitely open to suggestions!    

My poem,”Tempted,” is up at Figroot Press…

My poem, “Tempted,” is now live at Figroot Press!

Sappho-Issue-Cover

Many thanks to editor Tamara Franks for including this quirky (now, no-longer-lonely) piece — a sestina in the voice of a siren, page 19! — in Figroot’s first special themed issue, For My Lover, She is Fair: a Sappho Tribute, available for free download in pdf or purchase in print HERE!

 

Beesiness as Usual

Beesiness As Usual_Matthew Harper

One of the many advantages giving birth to and raising a natural-born photographer offers, is that when your debut chapbook of poetry gets accepted for publication nineteen years later (and you happen to have the slightest inkling of how blessed you are), you will already have an “in” with a brilliant cover artist!

I’m so proud to share with all my WordPress Compatriots that this gorgeous photo, “Beesiness as Usual,” by my son, the one and only Matthew Harper, will be gracing the cover of my poetry chapbook, This Being Done (Finishing Line Press). Stay tuned for more announcements regarding my book’s availability for pre-publication order and estimated release date (don’t worry, I won’t let you forget…)!

In the meantime, please check out the following beautiful poetry collections — also forthcoming from Finishing Line Press — and available for order now:

From Every Moment A Second, by Robert Okaji

Anastasia Maps, by Devi S. Laskar

 

GISHWHES 2017!

What on earth is GISHWHES, you might be asking yourselves? Well, in a word, it’s the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. It’s also a wonderfully creatively energizing/exhausting week of pushing your boundaries and spreading acts of kindness through your communities (which happens on a world-wide basis), while making mayhem/harmless mischief, and connections with like-minded others internationally. My kids and I participated in last week’s hunt for the 2nd year in a row, and I thought I’d share one of my more impressive accomplishments (well, I was impressed with myself!) with my beloved WordPress compatriots! This item for the hunt required me to compose and disseminate via Twitter (that is, 140 characters w/spaces at a time) a 2,000 word essay on the topic of “The Best Way to Get Pregnant for the 10th Time.” Considering the fact that I’m not all too well-versed on the subject, I think I pretty much knocked this one out of the park! By the way, 2,000 words is A LOT OF WORDS!

Anyway, I’d love to hear your impressions, whatever they may be, so here’s the link to the initial Tweet, to which I then replied the requisite number of times (I’m not telling you how many Tweets it took, because I don’t want to intimidate you out of reading it…) to make the whole thread accessible in its entirety via one link.

Enjoy!

Last Day of Pre-Publication Sales for Robert Okaji’s Chapbook

Don’t get left in the cold as Robert Okaji’s wondrous poetry takes the literary world by storm! 🌩 Let’s celebrate the difference that Bob’s vital words have made in so many lives, and take today’s last opportunity to make a difference for him! 😊

O at the Edges

From Every Moment a Second

Today is the final day of the pre-publication sales period for my new chapbook, From Every Moment a Second. If you intended to order a copy but haven’t yet (the dog ate your homework, you had to wash your hair, poetry? you’re kidding, right?), time’s running out. Order here.

Many, many thanks to the members of this blog community for supporting my writing.  I am truly grateful for your wisdom, advice, humor and willingness to help me traverse the strange and wonderful worlds of poetry and publication.

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Day 6/30 of Charles Payne’s Poetic Feats in the Tupelo 30/30 Project (20170806)

Our resident WordPress Corvid is but one small poet, but he’s taking 30 giant leaps for Poetkind! Let’s help him stay afloat while he helps an Indie Press keep poetry vital and accessible! Please consider supporting his cause – a cause which is relevant to all of us! – by sponsoring one of Charles’s 30 poems in the month of August, or by making a donation (no amount is insignificant!) in the name of poetry! Most of all, let’s show our appreciation for all the ways “the stuff that comes out of a bird’s mouth” entertains, inspires, and helps us feel connected!

Words and Feathers

this side of the creek
i dried my socks
and went barefoot…

——

Want to read more? You can. My poem invisible made visible is available to read at the Tupelo 30/30 project page.

Already Day 6, and you may actually be reading this one Day 7. I hope I get better/faster/stronger/6 million dollars worth soon so that I don’t keep you waiting.

Folks, I need your help. Tupelo Press needs your help. More people need to read poetry. I have three whole weeks of sponsorships still left. So why not take advantage of me–I mean, this opportunity. Go to Tupelo Press’ Project 30/30 page for more details.

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