Thanks for spreading the word, Bob! Slippery Elm LJ is truly top-notch!
Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s 2019 issue is now live in the Slippery Elm online archives. My poem “This Oak” appeared in the print issue. If you have a chance, take a look at SELJ‘s offerings and/or consider submitting a few poems or entering the 2021 Slippery Elm Prize competition, now open for submissions. Many thanks to the journal’s editorial team, and especially EIC Dave Essinger, whose professionalism and personal kindness place SELJ at the top of the ladder in the world of literary journals.
Though it is Written
that grace comes only by the way
of a primordial breath,
you know it to be no less
manifest for its taking of alternate routes,
as surely it finds you by the grasping-
by the miraculous-
as well as the letting-
not to mention the way
you habitually open
the blinds to another barely-lit dawn,
that grants you a glimpse of a Northern Flicker
scrabbling for purchase on the finch feeder
in a flapping blaze of belly, feathers,
& beaked seeds flung in ceremonious
presumption of some nearby female’s interest;
or the way you finally steal a breath—
which you need to steal
before your face re-stones itself
in the memory of those children
who were murdered
in yesterday’s mass shooting
in a Texas church,
for how else can you still hope?—
which delivers you to the way
your twelve-year-old Red Heeler
recruits what measure of her
brown-eyed vigilance she can muster
to shepherd this whole
heartsick-kitchen-calamity of you
past the counter-top-mounds of clutter,
through the ice age shadow
of your perdition,
& back to your beginning
when you were god,
& you were the word with god,
& you were the way.
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
“Though it is Written” first appeared (in slightly different form) in The Winnow Magazine in November 2019. When I first wrote this piece, I couldn’t imagine a more agonizing circumstance than that which had brought about the particular tragedy weighing so heavily on me at the time. Then came the year 2020. Though I haven’t yet processed some of the things we’ve collectively experienced and emerged from (with varying degrees of scarring) enough to approach them poetically, what I do know is that the way I once devised for myself to keep finding hope still applies.
Happy New Year 2021, my friends. I wish you all the ways that guide you in the year ahead to soul-sustaining beauty, light, and love.
What you’ve got is only a touch of neurosis,
so don’t get your knickers all bunched in a twist—
such worries will 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 smart phone 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 something not 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
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
_____“Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world,
_____but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” – Romans 12:2 (NIV)
my dear friends i give thanks whenever i remember you
performing the Sunday liturgy in your private domiciles
as you fritter the late-winter daylight heads bowed
to the gardens you cultivate in solitude in which the holy grapes
of indolence germinate & swell into such harvests as only a protracted
back surgery recovery may ferment into sacred existential wine
imbibe i pray & rejoice in your propitious
proximity to those who are sanctified:
Blessed be the Teenagers
__________greasified & bespectacled
though they be for lolling with you on the couch
to watch an “old” movie from two thousand & three
for getting most of the cheesy references to last century
& even laughing aloud (albeit dubiously) as you’ve
been all the while vaunting the previous night’s travesty
of red flannel covered in Mickey Mouse heads
purple soccer shorts & magenta knee-high socks
_____& for not only seeming not to mind your ensemble
but also refraining from being put out by the three-inch-
long grey whisker sticking bolt straight out of your temple
from whence it had migrated undiscovered until crossing
the evidentiary vista’s periphery
Blessed be the Husband
__________for disarming your gesticulating
dismay with his velvety quip “It’s actually white”
which he punctuates with an ironic kiss before slipping
out the door like the Count of Monte Cristo to grab
a late take-out lunch called “linner” thusly
exercising his seasoned prowess as a nuclear engineer
who (having remained at all times cognizant of the breeder
reactor’s categorical purpose) has managed the containment
area around these billions of atoms your half-life needed
to split in provisioning wholeness for your progeny—
_____namely your exquisite boy who took off
at birth on a trajectory through the complex system
of boons & hazards some call autism which you try to follow
corkscrewing like a solid-fuel rocket that’s lost a fin mid-flight
_____& your willful-sweet girl whose arrival
from the spacetime continuum came sooner than expected
replete with congenital array of warp-drive clairvoyance
an uncanny talent for art & a heart anomaly requiring
multiple interventions that have left
rip-roaring in her vector field—
by stabilizing within his perimeter both your incendiary
preoccupation with fissile potential & its eventual fallout
(a. k. a. forty-something) an advanced state of spiritual
decay known to impel the trade of a semi-functional uterus
for a pair of robust guinea pig siblings who in all likelihood
will outlive god
Blessed surely be the Son
__________for being but seventeen
yet somehow finding his way unprompted
to the shower no later than three pee em
_____& for his gorgeous baritone honed by years
of lessons now forsaken for countertenor arias
redolent of a derailed train
O Blessed indeed be the Daughter
__________for the whiling away
of so many precious hours closed up in her bedroom
to conduct her assays of fan tributes on YouTube
_____& for the eternities of wringing crusades waged
on your universe trussed in her small perfect hands
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
“Briefing from the Sunday Review Board” appears in my chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament (<< click link for poem samples, commentary, and ordering information). I’ve decided once and for all to retire it from the cyberspace slush pile, and to give it the loving home it deserves, here, in the arms of the WordPress poetry community.
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.
I had the great honor and privilege of previewing and writing the following blurb for the back cover of Robert Okaji’s newest chapbook, I Have a Bird to Whistle (Luminous Press):
In I Have a Bird to Whistle, Robert Okaji masterfully constructs a universe of incisively beautiful sensory observations, in which the poet lives at the crux—owns and revels in the “life energy” of the “liminal”—between “unshuttered” stimuli and the “concealed” truth of existence. Here, where every ray of light shed on an otherwise “transitory” moment celebrates the gift of consciousness, and every deviation from expectation substantiates the self-actualizing force of human will, the language of poetry—of colors, sounds, and symbols—circumscribes our very being, as it drives our search for meaning. As nuanced as they are bold and delectable, these poems are utterly human, and utterly divine!
– Stephanie L. Harper, author of This Being Done and The Death’s-Head’s Testament.
In short, this is a reading experience like no other, that you simply don’t want to miss!
U.S. Residents can purchase I Have a Bird to Whistle HERE for the fantastic price of $7.50/copy, shipping included. Non-U.S. purchasers can order directly from Robert by emailing aBirdtoWhistle@yahoo.com.
Robert Okaji’s poetic tour de force, “Wind,” tops the list of Krista Stevens’ feature, Throwback Thursday: 5 Favorite Posts of 2018 on Discover!
Prepare for your breath to be taken away!
Sometimes, maybe once in a lifetime, a poem changes your life for the better… Robert Okaji’s “Letter to Harper…” was that poem for me!
Letter to Harper from Halfway to the Horizon
Dear Stephanie: No one connects here, and no matter
how resolutely we trudge forward, ignoring spinal fusions
and attacking hearts, the line skips lightly ahead, mocking us,
I think, in that way only the ineffable may claim. Looking
out, I see a lone wren, clouds filtering the stars, and strands
of barbed wire looped like question marks around cedar
stumps, punctuating the day’s greeting. No answers there,
only more inquiries blanching under the sun. But this
is my febrile landscape, not your lush green headed by
gray. Nothing matters, or, everything’s imperative.
In this gnarled season I can’t tell which, although
the vulture ripping into a squirrel carcass on my
suburban front lawn tells me something ain’t quite
right. Full or empty, the glass is still a glass, despite
my propensity for seeking more, whether cava or beer
or yes, enlightenment. I…
View original post 194 more words