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.

A New Poem Up at BONED!

I’m thrilled to share the news that my poem, “Rhapsody in Bone” — a bit of formal verse for the 21st century… — is featured at the wonderful web journal, BONED! I’m grateful to editor Nate Ragolia for giving my quirky piece inspired by an ancient Inuit myth such a lovely and fitting home.

“Rhapsody in Bone” appears in my new chapbook, This Being Done, available now from Finishing Line Press. Orders will ship in June 2018.

Prologue to My Birth

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Prologue to My Birth

This is neither a beginning
nor the prophecy of an ending
for beginnings & endings are lies
told to the once-living

it is not the exemplifying
of the aberrations the alchemists made
when they dethroned our Divine Queen
& transmuted her golden honey
into their iron pyrite philosophy
that left us to wither
inside our stunned husks

& so     this is the emptying
of our errant devotion
to the denial of bodily hunger

the sanctified unbelieving
in fairytales of heavenly salvation

& it is the vital refilling
of infants’ gaping mouths
with earthly fortitude

& here     now     is the weeping

for our birth-story     interred
with our long-dead mothers
who delivered us
& secured our velvety     aboriginal flesh
to their warm breasts—

the saline unleashing
to purify our Logos
our will to creation     our innate need
to manifest our god-selves

it is the recovering
of the Life that was severed from our psyches
when it was reduced to a Word
& uttered     bereft of melody—

the unrepressed singing
Artemis awake from her slumber
beneath her ruined Temple in Ephesus

at last     this is the extricating
of shame that made our tongues
untie us from our Mother’s holy earth
& swayed our ears to scorn her winged songs
even as she kept flying back to us
ever thick-limbed & fragrant
with nourishment from lavender blooms
solely that we should swell in our birthing cells
gorged on her royal jelly

This poem is my body
embryonic     translucent
distended with new hope

it is my luminous     black eyes
grown huge with their memory
of who I am

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

I’m thinking a lot today about the Divine Mother’s tireless devotion to her children. Happy Mother’s Day!

“Prologue to My Birth” was published in the collection,  International Poetry Month 2017, curated by Bonnie McClellan, and appears in my chapbook, This Being Done, available now for order from Finishing Line Press, scheduled to ship in June 2018.

An Elegy for Birds & Bees

Lavender Kiss_Matthew Harper

“Lavender Kiss,” by Matthew Harper

An Elegy for Birds & Bees

“When a woman pretends to press her life down into a nice, tidy little package, all she accomplishes is spring-loading all her vital energy down into shadow. ‘Fine. I’m fine,’ such a woman says… Then one day, we hear she has taken up with a piccolo player and has run off to Tippicanoe (sic) to be a pool hall queen…”                               Clarissa Pinkola Estés

over & over in habitual drone
i repeat a phrase in my mind that no one knows i say
because i have not told
i am saying i’m done
but this being done
is how i know i will never be done
though my climbing son
a speck eighty feet high in a skyline of swaying cedars
can heft the storm clouds away
from his own silvery horizon
& my seeking daughter
has tenacity enough     without me
to prize out four leaf clovers
from speciously green reaches
_____but i will never release
this breath of finality that i keep
choked in my throat behind earnest songs for my children
no     & i will swallow the rising bile
when the Northern Flicker perches
on our aluminum chimney top     puffed-up
so proud in those marrow-less bones
of his impervious skull’s clever     territorial ricocheting

being done happened
within my own sinew-lined pelvis
the cracked bowl
filled     drained     & refilled
with meticulously rich essences
long after anything living had been fed
the relentlessly heavy     gnawing
red slough of losing myself
to nothing     for nothing
frightened me
_____& so     i had the offending flesh cut out
the fossilized rind that was left is now locked
with its un-told stories
beneath eons of hardened sediments

this being done happens in spring
while i am driving alone
it happens quickly
in instants of lapsed attention
in overzealous moments of stony apathy
when windshield wipers stick unexpectedly
or when sudden     pink shafts of evening sun
transmute newborn lambs bucking
for tender grass & mother’s milk
into silhouettes haunting the roadside
_____the being done
is all these countless     fleeting deaths
i tear into strips     soak in chewed glue
& fashion together to house myself
in a prodigal    crinkled    purgatorial prune

these tiny     stinging      imprudent suicides
should all be spirited away from their haughty blooms
& borne into the ancient hive
clutched industriously
to the undersides of fuzzy exoskeletons
_____there     my secret     greedy orchestrations
would become coded in sacred routines
my life programmed in dance
& propagated by ecstatic waggles & fastidious figure eights
to a crescendo of communal comprehension
of the one     seminal purpose
of the being done that shall be

done at all costs
the Queen’s Royal Jelly must be
sealed with wax in her hexagonal vaults

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“An Elegy for Birds & Bees” first appeared in the 2015 edition of Slippery Elm Literary Journal — thank you editor Dave Essinger for your gracious and validating support of my work! — and is the title poem of my new chapbook, This Being Done, available NOW for order at Finishing Line Press, and scheduled for release in June 2018.  For more insight into this piece’s inception and the role it played in informing the collection as a whole, check out my recent Q&A with Robert Okaji.

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to everyone for your investment in (as well as your abiding engagement with and enthusiasm for) my work. It truly means the world to me.

Recording of “Anatomy of a Fustercluck”

Starling_Fustercluck

“Anatomy of a Fustercluck” appears in my new chapbook, This Being Done, and was the “editor’s choice” winner of Rattle magazine’s January 2016 Ekphrastic Challenge. Thank you, Timothy Green, for seeing something of what I hoped would be seeable, and for your validating comment on this piece:

“From the start, this painting gave me an unsettling feeling, as if I’d sat down to watch Seinfeld and didn’t realize this was actually Twin Peaks. I couldn’t quite explain why, but this cast of characters just seemed so annoying. When I read this poem, I realized, ‘That’s it! They’re flustering in clumps like maimed birds!’ Harper makes sense of it for me, and with both humor and craft. Even the last line, which seems at first a cliché, fits perfectly—this kind of day is long, isn’t it?”

THIS IS THE FINAL WEEK OF PREORDER SALES FOR:

This Being Done, available for preorder NOW until April 27, 2018 at Finishing Line Press. The number of copies sold during the preorder sale will determine my print-run, so every single order makes a huge difference for my book’s release (scheduled to ship on June 22, 2018)! To order, click: HERE! I’m grateful for your support!

Recording of “Matthew in the Fountain”

In the Fountain 1999
Matthew, age 14 months
Matthew in the Fountain

(Recorded by Matthew Harper, April 17, 2018)

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Inspired by my beautiful son (who’ll be turning 20 years old in June!), “Matthew in the Fountain” appears in my new chapbook, This Being Done — a culmination of years of work, and featuring Matthew’s gorgeous photo (below) on the cover — available for preorder purchase NOW and for the next 10 days from Finishing Line Press:

This Being Done, by Stephanie L. Harper 

This Being Done is scheduled for June 2018 release, but please consider ordering your copy before the April 27, 2018 preorder deadline, as my print-run will depend on the number of copies ordered during the preorder sales period. Your timely support will be crucial to my book’s successful release, and means more to me than I could ever hope to express!

Harper_Stephanie_COV

In Response to My 13 Year-Old Daughter’s Letter

Starlight 01

Cameren at age 4, taken Mother’s Day 2005

In Response to My 13 Year-Old Daughter’s Letter

Apologize? For regretting your birth?

That the white dove of sarcasm
has officially fledged from your belly
alit on the canopy     & uncaged its crystal trill
comes to me as no surprise

But neither of us could have foreseen the power
your brooding would conceive of pencil & ire
before the moment you spat out   crumpled     & hand delivered
my saltwater baptism

Your own tears     now dried for hours     blaze for me
from the gold heart in your gray-green eyes
willing my belief that you truly didn’t realize
I’ve been there your whole life

At sundown     I’m the one always stumbling through the wood
like some sort of village idiot     brandishing my dim lantern
at the giant pines     as if I might catch them in the act
of uprooting themselves     & slinking away

Though you flit by & vanish into the trees
in a flash I can barely make out as a memory
your trace among the cedars & silvertips remains as innate in me
as the wolf’s way to her newborn cub’s whimper

Two months early
yet already ripe for the triumph
& pain only the fiercest have dared to carry in one body
you were born to fly from me—

& so     how could I ever be sorry
to know of finding you over & over again?

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Thank you to editor Eli T. Mond for giving this piece a home in the December 2017 edition of The Ibis Head Review.

“In Response to My 13 Year-Old Daughter’s Letter” is included in my debut poetry chapbook, This Being Done, which is available for order NOW from Finishing Line Press!

If you would like to order a copy, I ask that you please do so as soon as possible before the deadline for pre-publication orders on April 27, 2018. Although my book is scheduled for release in June, the print-run is based on a minimum quota of copies ordered during the two-month presale period ending on April 27, 2018.

Order online: This Being Done, by Stephanie L. Harper 

I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to any of you who have already preordered This Being Done. Your investment in and appreciation for who I am and what I do means more to me than I could ever adequately express. This journey wouldn’t be the same without your support!

Q&A with Poet Stephanie L. Harper (Part 2)

Thank you, Sir Robert, for your generosity and insightfulness in this interview, and for everything you do in general to promote a sense of authentic connectedness that’s so vital to poetry and Poetkind!

O at the Edges

I’m pleased to present part 2 of the Q&A with poet Stephanie L. Harper:

If you were a poetic form, which would you be?

I would be a poetic form that could seep down into darkness, molecule by molecule, through miles of porous rock, to return to the wellspring, then rise again to the surface, and wash over the grief-stricken with the all immensity of love and joy in my depths. I’m pretty sure that would make me an elegy.

What themes or traits will readers find in your work? What will they not find?

My work is chock full of mythological creatures, archetypal symbolism, and nature imagery (i.e., birds, seascapes, wolves, forests, volcanoes). It touches often on spirituality (and/or religiosity), sometimes alludes to current events (and associated dismay), and has an overall feminist and philosophical bent. My love for and awe of my children shows up a lot, too…

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