Poem in Slippery Elm Literary Journal

baby goat

Answer

what element of the womb’s hush     little goat
_____groomed your aptitude to bleat so     sidling
your silken haunches up to me?

the way you press your distended
_____pintsized abdomen against my knee
& butt my outstretched hand
with your horn buds     begging for the sun-
ripe shoots along the far side of the fence
_____brings me to a robust belief in need…

o     bleating babe     no     I won’t leave
you before the cricket-song’s lull is in full swing
_____though     the dusk is rushing in
to replace afternoon’s haze
& twilight’s adamant touch would usher me to the dark
of another sleep sorrowing signifiers for insufficiency
_____like the moon     engorging
on the horizon     weeps to streak the soft hills silver…

last night     I dreamed a familiar dream
of my children when they were still young
in which there was never enough time     & never enough help
to rise     & feed so many all-too-realistic demands—
_____from the toting of two pajama’d bodies to the car
to park them in a driveway four houses away     at the crux
of their convoluted breakfast ritual     to rejections
_____in equal parts irrational & resolute     of the given
dream-morning’s cereal offerings—
_____& still hope
to make it anywhere on time     or at all…

what mother doesn’t dream of baby goats?

hear their cries in her mind as melodies & answer
in harmonic bleats?

hunger for sweet greens just out of reach?

bed down in warm hay beneath the starlight
bleeding through the barn’s worm-worn roof?

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Thank you to the SELJ Editing Team for selecting “Answer” as one of ten finalist in SELJ’s 2020 Poetry Prize and including it in the beautiful 2020 issue! I’m grateful to editor Dave Essinger for his impeccable professionalism, and for making me feel like a welcome member of the SELJ community!

Please peruse the Slippery Elm Literary Journal website, and perhaps purchase a copy of this fantastic journal to support Findlay University’s students in editing and publishing. Please also consider entering SELJ’s annual Deanna Tulley Multimedia Prize, now open for submissions! 

3 Poems Up at Literati Magazine!

Many thanks to editor Renée Sigel of Literati Magazine for featuring my poems, “Rewording,” “Titanoboa cerrejonensis,” and “Ghazal of the Lost,” in the publication’s Portfolio Series of previously rejected poems. Yes, a majority of my poems that make it out into the world tend to experience a healthy dose of rejection before seeing the light of day, and I greatly appreciate that Renée saw fit to bring these three stragglers in out of the cold.

While “Ghazal of the Lost” was a cooperative child, Literati Magazine found the formatting of “Rewording” and “Titanoboa cerrejonensis” to be somewhat combative, so I’ll provide the texts as they should appear below:

Crocus in snow, purple spring flower.

Rewording

_____Your laugh is the child I never knew,
a promise kept nascent like a crocus
__________beneath a winter of detritus—

_____I never knew a crocus
could reword the daylight
__________with spring’s first mist.

_____How I’d wished the earth’s iron bellows
would recast the sky’s crimson artefacts
__________my lost will had smelted into slag,

_____until living through my bitterest nights
of seismic heartbeats weathered into stalagmites
__________finally tempered my breaths alive!

_____Now, their embers light my way
to the tenderness you well in your eyes:

_____Amassed like snowdrifts
the rising moon velvets in her white hush,
__________it is the naked quiet of us

rewording the daylight

_____into ash branches
__________lustered with dusk’s winter cloak;

_____a crocus sheltered in warm mulch
__________beneath the moonlit ice;

_____your laugh,
__________the child I never knew;

_____a promise kept
__________nascent in winter’s womb.

***

Titanoboa

Titanoboa cerrejonensis

_____When this restrictive skin
of self-pity refuses to slough off
_____& relinquish its groaning contents      my pain

sends me to my prehistoric depths—
_____sliding through my black     encapsulated veins
with questions of utility & necessity forking my tongue

_____into a device primed for maximal receptivity
scouring the fossil record
_____for evidence of fortitude       where I find you

fifty-eight million years ago
_____at the height of your dominion
in the Cerrejón Rain Forest     in what is now

an arid sweep of Northern Colombia

_____There     your legacy swims its secrets
into my stagnant heart     transforms my
_____mudstone back into supple blood

& re-designs me in your magnificent image
_____that I may waggle my muscled girth
_into a forty-eight-foot-long series of esses

_____effortlessly conveyed upon the swamp’s
vast network of currents     slip out
_____of my twisted     anthropic pelvis

& encumbering limbs     & vanquish
_____gravity’s inflammatory breath
_in the clutches of my cold     unshakable coils

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

 

Poem up at Electica!

My poem “Turkey Vulture” is live in Eclectica Magazine’s January/February 2020 issue as part of the journal’s recurring Word Poem Challenge feature. I’d like to thank poetry editor Evan Martin Richards for selecting this piece, and express my appreciation for Eclectica Magazine, in general, for being one of the longest-running online journals out there, and doing such great work to promote literature and literary kind!

Poem up at Eclectica

Mt St Helena_Sleeping Elephant

My “sleeping elephant,” Mt. Saint Helena (Sonoma County, CA), in whose mesmerizing shadow I grew up…

My poem, “Elephantine,” has been included with a fine array of poems in Eclectica magazine’s October/November 2019 issue’s Word Poem Challenge feature. The task was to compose a poem containing the words paper, indigo, brew, and cruise. Thank you editor Evan Richards for selecting this piece.

Remains the Dark

blackhole-1

Remains the Dark

                            “How I wanted to be that sky—”  ~ Ocean Vuong

What is want, if not the forsaken
self’s inexorable reversion to self?

Just as your virtual arrival at the event
horizon must propagate only departure

this eternal leaving you actually are
is the mouth’s forgotten swallow,

is sustenance un-sought,
is your every trace & its antithesis

at once ceasing to mean.
Though emptied, you are no less

unfathomable: the black belly remains
the dark you’ll never grasp how to be.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Remains the Dark” was published in the Spring 2019 Showcase at The Zen Space, among a gorgeous collection of poetry, along with haiku and *tiny poems* by Lynne Burnett, the late Ron Evans (curated by Robert Okaji), and others, expertly edited by and adorned with the original black and white photography of the brilliant Daniel Paul Marshall.