How to Be a Malacologist

Snail Buddy

How to Be a Malacologist

Remember when
your child’s heart led your head
like a garden snail’s head leads its footed belly.

Think back to when you were seven
& your adopted pet/school project, Kiddo,
gnawed away at a slice of banana on a glass slide
as you watched, thunderstruck, from beneath him
(find out on Wikipedia that he was using his radula
a structure akin to a tongue used by mollusks to feed).

Recall how proud you were of Kiddo when he not only lost
the school snail race, but redefined it, by turning around
at the half-way point, staying in his own lane, & crossing
the start-line before any of the other snails reached the finish.

Wonder why your teacher didn’t mention anything about Kiddo
& his compatriots being hermaphrodites, or how (if they chose)
they could all be both father & mother to their tiny-shelled progeny,
& realize how simple it would have been for her to call a snail’s powerful,
innate mechanism of retracting its tentacles into its head for protection
by its technical name: invagination.

Then, understand, finally, that if you’d been born with the ability
to operate yourself like a puppet, & pull yourself outside-in
by drawing your head down into your belly & out
through your foot, to invert your once-vibrant
body into an empty sock, how many times
you would have done exactly that.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“How to Be a Malacologist” first appeared in Panoply in January 2018—thank you to editors Jeff, Andrea, and Ryn for selecting this piece!—and is the opening poem of my first chapbook, This Being Done.

What a Patriot Dreams

Desert Flags2

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
& vanished at once—deposed

by morning’s first, grainy insinuations
that breached the blinds’ periphery
& accreted into a 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” emerged from a dream I had just after the “orange pustule” (to borrow the apt terminology coined by Rebecca Raphael) pulled the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord. What unholy hell have we descended into since then?

Thank you to editor C. M. Tollefson of Cathexis Northwest Press for publishing this piece.

Hypochondria Blues

Hypochondria Blues  

What you’ve got is only a touch of neurosis,
so don’t get your knickers all bunched in a twist—
such worries can give you a deep vein thrombosis!
 
Do you think there’s a prize for a self-diagnosis?
Stop looking for lesions; don’t palpate that cyst!
What you’re dealing with here’s just a bit of neurosis…
 
That smartphone is gonna cause spinal stenosis!
The search engine’s warning that if you persist,
you’ll likely wind up with a deep vein thrombosis!
 
You’d have known it by now if you had halitosis—
like a boil, it’s not something easily missed.
Better face it, you’ve got a small case of neurosis…
 
Now, what would possess you to google psychosis?
Let me guess… The voices submitted a list?
Are they helping you summon a deep vein thrombosis?
 
It’s not a news flash you’ve got some type of –osis—
but the poking of badgers is what gets them pissed…
So give it a rest!  Embrace your neurosis!
Who needs all the fuss of a deep vein thrombosis?
 
(Just to be on the safe side, look up pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis…) 

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Hypochondria Blues” was published in the anthology, The Larger Geometry, by peaceCENTERbooks. Thank you to editor d ellis phelps for including my work in this beautiful and inspired collection!

The peaceCENTER, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in San Antonio, Texas, supports the learning of peace through prayer and education; and supports the demonstration of peace through nonviolent actions and community.  All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to benefit the peaceCENTER. 

Pressing into the Depths

Old-growth Oak

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

“Pressing into the Depths” was published in the November 2018 peaceCenterbooks anthology, The Larger Geometry: poems for peace, edited by d ellis phelps.

Day 28 of 30!

wisteria-vine-wall-wallpaper-1Yesterday, I learned the heartbreaking news of two men who were murdered and one (Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21) who was wounded and is being treated in a local hospital, on the evening of Friday, May 26, 2017, in a brutal attack on a MAX train in North Portland.

The alleged perpetrator (who will not be named on this website) is a known felon, white supremacist, and provocateur in the Greater Portland-Metro area. The three victims involved had tried to intercede between the perpetrator and two young women (one of whom was wearing a hijab) whom the former was viciously assaulting with what was described by witnesses as “anti-Muslim rhetoric” and “hate speech.”

Ricky Best was an upstanding citizen, military veteran, and father of four children. Taliesin Myrrdin Namkai-Meche, a recent graduate of Reed College, was just beginning his professional life, and was adored by his family. Both men are heroes in the purest sense. My heart aches so for their families at this time of their grievous loss.

There is This

Portland, OR
Written May 27, 2017, for Ricky Best & Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche               
R.I.P. 
             
   
On a trellis erected between my west suburb neighborhood
& the nearest MAX station     the wisteria vines burgeon
into dusky purple blooms bursting with the dizzying fragrance
of a dessert wine     but yesterday     while I was out walking
as the early evening heat broke    I noticed those sallow petals
carpeting the concrete in their waning just since the previous day
were already bearing the heavy imprints     illumined by
the sun’s oblique indifference     of commuters’ footfalls
& the signature    parallel furrows of teenaged skateboarders…

Continue reading here:

 

“Trust me, you by yourself are not what makes everything so beautiful. It’s the combination, the coming together of all these different people from different backgrounds with different beliefs coinciding with one another, the interactions between them and the different products of those interactions that’s what makes society so great.”

Micah David-Cole Fletcher, winner of the 2013 “Verselandia” competition, performing and reflecting on his poetry on OPB’s Think Out Loud

GISHWHES Highlights

My daughter, Cameren, is a wise, wonderful 15 year-old. By insisting that our family participate in GISHWHES, a world-wide week of shenanigans, she not only gave me the gift of new-found appreciation for my husband and kids’ beautiful, generous hearts, many and varied talents, creativity, problem-solving prowess, and potential for spontaneity–but she also restored my faith in the essential goodness of human beings, and made me feel hopeful for the future.

As we embarked on the week-long scavenger hunt, I was terrified of being faced with impossible and/or ridiculous tasks that would impinge on my life, and I had no capacity to envision whether or how my participation in the event might actually matter. Then, somehow, things just began to unfold, and I was suddenly in the thick of the sheer magic we were making in collaboration with our teammates from all over the U.S.  In one week, our 15-member team completed and submitted upwards of 75 items, including acts of kindness throughout our communities, and raising funds to house, clothe, and provide medical care for Syrian refugee families in dire circumstances (see previous post).

And so, I hope you’ll enjoy seeing just a fraction of the wild and wonderful items we completed in our hunt:

032Create a Vision Board from items found in magazines to represent the things you want more of in your life that can’t be bought or sold.

This item took me about 30 hours over the course of 3 days to complete. Dimensions:  18″ x 24″

 

039b

There’s a lot of hype in the news that undocumented “illegal aliens” are stealing jobs from citizens and overflowing from our hospitals and prisons, but what we should really be concerned about is the burden created by aliens from outer space. Capture a photo depicting this scourge on society, and caption it with a message that emphasizes how aliens are a drain on our civic infrastructure.

This item specified that the space alien costume must be “impeccable” — and it just so happens that we proudly harbor a fugitive, fully-functional, life-sized Dalek (meticulously crafted by my husband, Mike, and operated by my daughter, Cameren). Having a  wonderful neighbor who is a police officer with a penchant for the theatrical, was icing on the cake… 

 

006

Have a child under the age of 6 draw your family’s portrait. Then take an actual family portrait in which you make whatever contortions necessary to recreate the drawing.

For this item, we thank my 5 year-old nephew, Corban, for his inspired rendering replete with labels (for most of us). Cameren is on the top left, my husband, Mike, is seated in front of her, my son, Matthew, is seated beside Mike, and I am the speck in the back. Corban also included an additional family member named, “Sir,” who he said is “the one who tells you what to find in the scavenger hunt.” We figured that “Sir” must in fact be the Grand Master/Brain Child of GISHWHES, Misha Collins, and so my daughter’s best friend, Sadie, wore a Misha mask and posed with us. Since GISHWHES is a (mostly) family-friendly event, posing in the nude (as we were drawn) was not really an option, so we decided to pose in the color we’d been drawn in…

I’d like mention a few other highlights that come to mind, the photos for which I don’t have access to at the moment:

Drone Battle: Cameren and Sadie faced off with my son’s Quad-Copter (which resembled a giant mosquito hawk in the photo) while dressed in battle armor made entirely of kitchen items, featuring a turkey baster and a rolling pin.

Create a Coin worth a Half Penny out of actual metal to commemorate the 7th anniversary of Misha Collins’ on-off affair with the Queen of England. Mike machined an aluminum medallion, and etched the recognizable visages of Misha and the Queen with Ferrous Oxide… This was his plan B, and it worked like a charm.

Depict the fairy tale, Trumpunzel, in an illustration. Cameren showcased her artistic genius and knack for subtlety.  

Badminton Match in a Mall Food Court. Yes, with a net, racquets, and sporting our “tennis whites.” In her badminton debut, Cam deftly served the birdie over the net and into her friend’s frozen yogurt cup!

 

 

CHANGE A LIFE: KHOULOUD & KHAWLA

Gishwhes-2016-logoTo My Awesome WordPress Followers:

As some of you may know, our family has been participating in an event called GISHWHES (the greatest scavenger hunt the world has ever seen — please check it out!). For one of the items on our Hunt, our team member, JaNae Vanderhyde, has set up a page to  raise funds for Syrian refugee families.

Please consider making a $10 donation here and/or reblog and share this message to support these families experiencing dire circumstances. Even though we’ve done a lot of silly things in the name of community, fun, and raising awareness of social injustice issues (I’ll post some highlights after the Hunt officially ends!) during the past week, this item, in particular, will have the most profound, measurable world-changing impact!

Any way that you can contribute would make an important difference!

Thanks so much!