There is This

wisteria-vine-wall-wallpaper-1

There is This

Portland, OR: May 27, 2017

            
On a trellis erected between
my west suburb neighborhood
& the nearest MAX station
the wisteria vines burgeon
overhead in a dusky-purple
cascade like a dessert wine
but yesterday     while I was
out walking as the early evening
heat broke     I noticed a sallow carpet
of petals    fallen
in their waning since just
the previous day     was now
ensconcing the concrete     & already
bearing the heavy imprints—illumined
by the sun’s oblique indifference—
of commuters’ footfalls
& the tell-tale     parallel furrows
of hipsters on skateboards

I saw black sugar ants scavenging
the secretions of the barely-dead
& felt a sour twist of grief
over that chapter unfolding underfoot
of the inevitability I understand
to be inherent in all that is
as dictated by the rule of reason
which     in turn     instructs
the Hawkmoth’s impassioned
twilit plummets into a streetlamp’s halo—
the Death’s-Head’s testament to the light
by which darkness must be defined

I’ll admit to being fickle—a variable
ally of predators & prey alike—
as I’m no less liable to marvel
at the grit of a barn cat stalking a fat vole
(& then to cheer at the rodent’s brief death-throes squeak!)
than I am to release a breathless prayer into the wind
for a crab scuttling frantically ocean-ward
in the shadow of a whimbrel

Steely prudence requires
our acceptance of tragic ends for some
as they are said to ensure the greater
endurance of the whole     & all of us know—
having learned since earliest childhood
some version of the proverbial
to every thing there is a season    
& a time to every purpose under heaven—
that the sun’s descent into the Pacific
beckons the moon’s rise to its vigil
that the ardent frog’s first chirps at dusk
will ring into a night of river-song
& that the raccoons’ kits will always
endure December’s snowfalls
cloistered in their hollows

But the lesson yesterday scrawled
on a sick-sweet banner of dying
wisteria     unfurled over a city
I no longer recognize
is a new     black codicil
rained down from the heavens
in which teenage girls are menaced
& the throats of their intercessors are slashed
during rush hour on a train

There is no season
no time           
& no poem      to assuage
such unnatural waning

There is only this
futile transit of hours
to successive hours—

this exodus
of blood from its native heart

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

MAX memorial

It’s been one year and one day since Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best were murdered, and Micah Fletcher narrowly escaped with his life, on a MAX train in Portland, Oregon.  Let Memorial Day be a day to revere their heroic stand against the vile inhumanity of racially-motivated hatred; and let us every day be a heart that remembers and strives to be worthy of their precious sacrifice.

“There is This” was first drafted during the May 2017 Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge, as I was grappling with my initial shock and grief upon first learning of this tragedy. It was subsequently published in the Fall 2017 edition of Harbinger Asylum, edited by Z. M. Wise.

8 thoughts on “There is This

  1. Ugly things happen in beautiful places – this incident in Portland a harsh but relevant example. Interesting that it came so close to a day designated for remembering those who died in service. So did the two Portland “defenders” – fighting an unofficial war that may yet do us all in.

    Your “fickle—a variable / ally of predators & prey alike—” struck a chord. Now that my young cat is outdoors, the green anole population is steadily declining. Five in the past week. While her hunting instincts are amazing to behold (and I do not begrudge her those instincts) I do grieve for the lizzies.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Right, animals doing their thing in nature is fascinating, often brutal, and often heartrending, but there’s also an inherent order to their world that seemingly reassures everything is as it should be —
      which, I agree, is far from the case for us…

      Liked by 2 people

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