Of These and All

In celebration of World Poetry Day, I offer the following “syntactic echo” of the ineffably ingenious innovator of American Poetry, Walt Whitman. This poetic exercise was the brainchild of one Alessandra Lynch (i.e., I’m not entirely to blame…), instructor/facilitator of my spring 2021 Poetry Workshop in the Butler University MFA Program. 

Of These and All

  “And of these one and all I weave the song of myself”     ~ Walt Whitman, Song of myself 15

The left flesh-melon harbors a pool of sweat, the right flesh-melon harbors a
             pool of sweat,
The perimenopausal woman hot-flashes in the kitchen, the bemused son dons 
            wool slippers in the kitchen,
The second husband purchases electric socks for his perimenopausal wife and

             the ex-husband dissociates further from his ex-wife;
And these stoke my hankerings for donuts, and I make do with home-baked
             banana-nut muffins, 
And such as it is to amass five decades of knowledge, minus where I last left my phone,
             more or less I am in fact speaking on it,
And of these hot flashes, cantankerous joints, suddenly-uncloseable pants and all I 
             justify the lament of my middle-age…

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

Fuel for Flight

Aaaand… one more, while we’re on the Shakespearean Love Sonnet theme…  I wrote this for my beloved husband just a couple of years back! Don’t mind the roadside warning graphics — they’re only ornamental!!

from Google Images

from Google Images

Your love once sent me flying to the moon,
But now I’ve landed solidly on ground.
Your jets at idle, I no longer swoon
From ventures superceding speed of sound!

You dress to go on your bi-monthly run;
I dress, if there’s somewhere I have to be.
Your eyes (do they still sparkle like the sun?),
Without my specs, my love, I cannot see.

No longer do I dream of bees or birds–
The hives are barren; nests have blown away:
Our teenagers now speak the “choicest” words,
For we are out of fertile things to say.

My love, though we have traveled beyond lust,
Jets may have cooled, but haven’t lost their thrust…

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Deliverance

Just in time for the Holidays… Hot off the presses — whoops, my bad — I mean, let go by a press that’s gone under (Booo!), but now available FREE for your consumption, er, enjoyment!

Google Images

Google Images

While wrapped up tightly to our necks in wool,
Sequestered in our homes in winter’s chill,
Whene’er we yearn to get our insides full,
A cardboard box in car delivers thrill…

Swelling with exhilarating spices,
Its savory scent comes wafting through the door––
Pepperoni, amongst other vices:
Meatballs and cheese and fat and carbs galore!

We sluggish’ eat while satisfaction grows––
All down the hatch, slice after slice, it goes––
Until its warmth has reached our very toes,
And caused onset of shameful gastric woes!

Oh, pizza, how you vanquish dark, cold days
In deviously insulating ways!

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

Painted Chickens

chicken mug

Found in Google Images, this is the actual mug which I still own (isn’t it wonderful?), that is featured in this poem.

Painted Chickens made its debut appearance in Sixfold Magazine, winter 2014 edition. 

Prompted to post it by Amy T., I dedicate it here to all of us who have looked back on our youths, shaken our heads,

and laughed…

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
and 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,
and one that looks like an index finger
with an eye, a comb, a beak, and 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,
and 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
and took pains to catalogue for me
the details of his worldly escapades
and 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
chicken cup.

Still burning hot
and feathered in their chili-pepper red,
royal purple and verdant green cloaks,
my static and 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 and 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 and 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

and that one on the bottom,
a middle finger.

Commode & Consequence

Cow and Castle

Before I share my epic tale with you,
please be advised adversity’s in tow,
which might resemble miseries a’ brew
in feudal farm communities you know…

Beleaguered by the wretched blight of drought,
our crops once verdant withered in their beds;
our throats were parched; the wells had all dried out
below that unjust sun above our heads!

In hope’s last ditch, we pulled ourselves together
beneath the menace of that burning sun.
We schemed to overcome the nasty weather—
& I was chosen as the lucky one

who’d take on brutal aristocracy
inside the castle’s potent, stone defenses.
Though, how I’d get in was a mystery
quite disagreeable to my frail senses…

Somehow I’d scale that granite carapace
& like a burlap sack half-filled with flour,
I’d drop to certain death in pale disgrace—
not how I’d hoped to spend my final hour.

My neighbors pushed me up the steep façade—
a feat achieved with cold tenacity
& pitchforks poised to terrorize & prod
lest reason should discourage bravery.

It wasn’t long before I’d reached the top
& feebly slumped down to the pitch below.
A happy “humph” in answer to my “plop”
was all I heard from friends now all turned foe

Alone, engulfed in stone, my knees felt weak
& quaked like autumn oak’s last clinging leaf.
I yearned to hide, yet knew I had to seek
a remedy to slake my kinsmen’s grief
(for well I knew they had a valid beef).

So there I stood, a little worse for wear,
with bumps & bruises forming by the tick;
my clothes were torn & leaves were in my hair
& knots inside my gut made me feel sick.

I scuttled ’round a pillar like a prawn
might claw its way along the ocean’s depths
until I reached the Kingdom’s royal lawn:
I lack for words (for nothing rhymes with “depths”)

to illustrate the wonder of that scene!
A massive span of fertile, rolling leas
with dewy, dappled hues of gold & green
that thrummed with buzz of busy honey bees,

who hovered over clover, grass & hay
(a beast of burdens’ grazing paradise!)
abounding with bright blooms in bold array
encircling the field for five miles thrice

on winding tendrils’ fierce vitality
entwined amongst the breezy willow trees.
Those flowers’ wafting scent arrested me,
for blooms by any name still make me sneeze…

In stealth, I made a masterful retreat
& ducked into a marble entry way
in time to fall in line with marching feet
of soldiers just returning for the day.

In dusk’s disguise, I tiptoed through the door,
then turned a corner leading to a room
with marble, thatch & porcelain décor—
when lowing rumbles harkened certain doom

as royalty approached my hiding place!
I understood those bellows as a sign
that it was nigh time to obscure my face
from frightful sounds uncommonly bovine!

With bland & dull brass clanking of a bell,
Her Majesty’s arrival was announced
by sentries who obeyed that deathly knell
& cleared a path, avoiding getting trounced.

Her shadow darkly filled the room’s ingress—
it was the very last thing I did see,
for my reaction to the acridness
took me headlong behind a porcelain scree.

The queen did then ascend her huge structure
behind which I had scrambled in my fear.
Against my better sense to conjecture,
deciphering, I learned some facts quite queer:

The luckless vantage point I had assumed
was probably the worst I could have chosen,
for suddenly the room became perfumed:
Suffice to say, the stench was not ambrosian.

From her stout, four-hooved figure there did gush
a foul, brown, sticky liquid, and a moan…
What followed was an eerie-sounding flush
broadcast from somewhere deep inside her throne!

That sound inspired a shocking calculation—
a reckoning I would not soon forget:
Our greedy queen had scorned our trepidation
& built herself a shiny, new toilet!

(‘Twas bad enough that founts no longer spurted
from natural springs that ere sustained crop-yields—
but now I knew their flow had been diverted,
that drought alone had not destroyed the fields…!)

How rage then filled me, I can’t quite express.
Royal or not, that beast above my head
released a demon I could not suppress—
the queen was on that throne, but I saw red!

I can’t account for just what happened next
(the kind of thing, perhaps, when one feels vexed?),
but from prodigious muscles that I flexed
Her Highness found herself somewhat perplexed!

Apparently, I’d lifted up that throne
& heaved it like a bundled bale of hay!
The blaring “Moo!” the queen did then intone
was indication that she rued the day!

There then arose an uproarious cheer
from far & wide through stony vestibules.
A grateful sentry offered me a beer
& furnished for my cause a pair of mules

to tow away my handsome hero’s pay
in a cart that just could scarcely hold her.
Discovering I’d somehow saved the day,
if not wiser, surely, I felt older…

As I approached our township with my haul,
my family rejoiced & shouted, “Wow!”
From this day forward I’ll be known by all:
The farmer who dispatched that dreadful cow…

Though my remaining days will yet accrue,
tonight, it’s safe to say that I’m a winner…
The coals are glowing in my barbecue,
Because Chateaubriand is what’s for dinner!

Meet Dalek Cas!

My husband, Lord Davros, has been hatching his evil plan to wipe out humankind… Eighteen months and 8,000 beers later, the fruit of his labor and passion has emerged in the form of this handsome devil:

IMG_20150117_201909

Can the love-child of a sentimentally artistic human and the coldly calculating super-genius and incarnation of evil thwart the demise of humanity with her limitless capacity for love?

IMG_20150117_202012

YOU BE THE JUDGE!

Portland Comic-Con January 24, 2015…