The Hobgoblin’s Guide to Indemnity

Hobgoblin Heart

The Hobgoblin’s Guide to Indemnity

__________Once upon a time,
a family with a boy my age
moved in next door.

__________That day marked the inception
of a years-long, late-night comedy series
featuring the bedroom window antics
of flashlight-haloed preteens in pajamas,
framed in harvest gold & avocado green—

for it was a day when
two eight-year-olds needed no longer
than a heartbeat to find themselves
allied in a baseball-bat crusade
on the neighborhood’s dandelion population…

__________Today, I make-believe
those weeds into having been proxies
for the bigots that were rooted
in our Northern Californian cul-de-sacs
like neoplastic glands
we somehow thought better to ignore;

though they crept about in the cover of night
defacing properties with gasoline crosses,
as if to exorcise some incognito beast that might be
masquerading as an innocent third-grader—
a ritual they performed on my neighbors’ front lawn
one night in 1979;

though the adults filed a police report,
declining in hushed tones to speculate
as to the perpetrators’ identities,
& hatched designs for disguising the scars
with green food coloring;

because, before I was through elementary school,
I’d already made an art-form of refusing
to be fazed by most breaches of decency:

__________Forged in the foundry of public ridicule
(where, once upon a time, a girl paid for her crime
of playing Little League Baseball), fueled by
the combustibles my schoolmates & their parents
knocking back hi-balls in the bleachers would purvey,
ranging from conjectures as to the nature of the equipage
my corduroys concealed, to indictments of my
supposed nine year-old prick-teasing wiles—

my cast-iron answer to the question of insult
was no different
(of this I was convinced)
from my response to the astonishment
my friend’s fastballs seared into my glove-hand,

that no matter how much it stung, I could take it…

__________The time my friend’s mom spent nine hours
taming my tawny wisps into cornrows, I took
her twist-tugging resolve for a tenderness I craved;

& when I sported my sunburned nakedness
adorned in shiny beads at the ballfield,
I took the prepubescent boys’ inspired torments
deep into the heat of my belly, billowed white
like cumulonimbus gorging on the afternoon sun,
& engulfed the horizon.

__________Once upon a time, I took everything,
assuming it was mine to take.

 

__________Only now as I watch my country
bending before a fascist onslaught
like a Floridian palm in a hurricane,
does it strike me to wonder about the light
my best childhood friend must cast
on his memories of me—

if he recounts in his version of our ever after
how we’d laugh-sputter milk from our noses
at an ad hoc Looney Toons riff; or how
I’d cap-off my Foghorn Leghorn renditions
with their signature disclaimer:
That was a joke, Son, I say, a joke!

__________I wonder if his heart of hearts—
my cherished idol emblazoned
on the gold backdrop of a burning cross—
can even make out its counterpart
in the darkness

of that fairy-tale world
where, once upon a time,

a young girl pretended

that giant, white cock on T.V.
was a cartoon chicken who lived in a barnyard,
far, far away.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

“The Hobgoblin’s Guide to Indemnity” appears in my chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament.

Live Feed from the SW Florida Eagle Cam

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Live Feed from the SW Florida Eagle Cam

For E9, Born December 31, 2016

1.
Everything
must first have been

a nameless billowing
in the silent house

of before    until its voice
yolk-forged     could wrest

a pyroclastic mouth
sufficient to speak birth’s

dialect of brokenness

2.
I watched the possibility of you
cradled sixty feet high in a Slash Pine

become a five-day-old
white fluff-bundle of spunk

& open-beaked ferocity     You
command the ripping impulse

that strips off the fish’s silver skin
midriff to tail     with one     swift

grip & flexion     exposing
the host’s fleshy glisten

of lipid-pink life to be flaked
& held to your tiny maw’s tip

3.
Before this feeding     I think
nothing had yet been born

whose name was Tenderness

no one to bring this warmth
of tastes & swallows growing ever

heavier in your belly & on your lids
to bear you to your imperative sleep:

Dream    Little One     in the haven
of your father’s stalwart breast!

Dream of wings outstretched
on the azure’s salt-breath!

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Live Feed from the SW Florida Eagle Cam” was published in The Ibis Head Review in December 2017, and appears in my chapbook, This Being Done, also available on Amazon.com.

Unvoiced

Unvoiced

Illustration by S. L. Harper

The words from the dream are
wisps in the air like broken
spider webs wrapping invisibly
about my face and forearms

The fake sunrise tarp draped before me
ripples like a summer mirage
half-soaked into the rural street

and then          as if I were not supposed to
I step through and place my foot
solidly into an evening of dark specters
waiting outside of their existence
to become what I am

there

I am the cool turpentine
wash of grays seeping over
a dusting of brown sand in the road

I am the night falling upon
neglected pastures of weeds
sputtering up about the silhouettes
of tree stumps and old swing sets

I am the street lamps’ sallow illumine
peering out sensibly from between
foolish tree skeleton embraces

and I am still the child
twisting acorns into the asphalt
with the soles of her shoes

squealing gleefully into the night

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Unvoiced” made its first appearance in Sixfold magazine, winter 2013 edition.

I was inspired to include it on my site today after reading a little metaphysical beauty posted on Robert Okaji’s  O at the Edges , called “Irretrievable.”