Chimera

chimera
Chimera 

Had you been capable of opening
your eyes     you’d have seen

that the obvious upside
to my unique coalescence

of scaly-headed tail     caprid skull
leonine belly     & three belching maws

was my reliable prescience
to forewarn of cataclysm     but

you never ceased to make monstrosity
your sticking point

Even your Lycean forbears’ stories
of the diaspora—        of how my children’s

fetal cells drifted from my womb     endured
the eons amidst the vessel & sinew landscapes

of aliens     & were ultimately delivered
to their new     craggy homeland beyond

the blood-brain cordon    to spawn a nation
of discrete selves as rare & fierce as their maker—

have failed    it seems     to inspire
your affection…

Was the transgression of my seething
once upon a time beneath your collective

hunkering in the basalt’s depths
so heinous as to name me     Anathema

so aberrant as to exonerate
your assassin’s sullying of Pegasus?

Though murder carapaces your shuddering
heads from my ash cloud’s descent

yet know this:     your lost-wax fairytales
have no more tempered the face of who I am

than cast the specter from the dark
hell-fire you dream:     that yet I am

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Vessel

“Chimera” was first published in Isacoustic* in May 2018. Thank you to editor and poet Barton Smock for selecting this piece for inclusion in Isacoustic* vol. the fourth.

From the Seed

lightning bolt
From the Seed

I’m caught in a quagmire
of dirty dishes, dog-hair-
strewn & stained floors,
& generally ineffectual
 
functions of utility, where
the minutes are consumed,
one after the other, by my
heart’s double-time ticking
 
moving time backward. This
body frozen in the here & now
is not the same me as all the atoms
I am, retracing their steps to find
 
the self I was in that past life—
the one who recognized
younger-you from a photo—
whose every cell sears me
 
with lightning, as wildfire smoke
wells up like a tidal wave from
the seed of being & time,
exclaiming, He’s the One!
 

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

germination

Letter to Harper from Halfway to the Horizon

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!

O at the Edges

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…

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Poem Live at Rootstalk!

My poem, “Travel by Starlight,” which just so happens to be the inspiration behind my original illustration serving as the banner on this blog (above), is live at Rootstalk Magazine, an online publication published in conjunction with the Center for Prairie Studies at my alma mater, Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA. Thank you so much to editor Mark Baechtel for accepting this piece!

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.

7 Poems Up at Underfoot Poetry!

White-throated_Sparrow_Audubon

I’d like to express my gratitude to Tim Miller for hosting my quirky (some might say, “Harperesque”) poems (along with 2 collaborations with the one and only Robert Okaji!) at his fabulous blog, Underfoot Poetry (<< read them here); to editor Daniel Paul Marshall for his professionalism and the distinct pleasure it has been working with him and getting to know him and his work; and last but not least, to Robert Okaji, for his friendship, mentorship, collaboration, humor and sensitivity, and all-around beautiful, generous soul.

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.

Alabaster

alabaster
Alabaster

I am a pink rose petal’s pale glow

black ash tamped in furrows
between the breaths of the living
& the droning of the dead

the dawn’s blush unfurling over sand dunes

& seagulls soaring on thermal spirits
of iodine     salt     & shellfish

& sometimes     scattering in the wind
I can’t find where everything else ends     & I begin

Now rising from the morning hush     this cloud of me
speaks to the red tail hawk perched on a streetlamp
& tells her I’m fine     because I’m still not sure
how to talk about not being fine

I am an instar     trying to be
the clearest version of myself     to sculpt
a final skin of lucent crystal

so that when you come to see my cinder eyes
glinting diamond dust     I will be
the embered dusk bleeding into the sea

& you will know the truth of me

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Alabaster,” having first appeared in print in Sixfold magazine, winter 2014, is included in my new chapbook, This Being Done,

Harper_Stephanie_COV

available now at Finishing Line Press until April 27, 2018, for pre-publication order. The number of orders received during this period will determine the print-run scheduled for release on June 22, 2018. I’m grateful for your timely orders to help my work take flight! RESERVE YOUR COPY HERE TODAY!

Lupercalia

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Lupercalia

We probe into the distant    wintry
rest of white oaks & umbrella pines

moonlit with longing to thrill
in the feral     hesitant glints

that crack the black tourmaline cold
our eyes pursuing their penumbrae

until the brink of blindness    reaching
for our bloodline of lost

infidel selves     still bound
to the night’s crystalline tenors

As our illicit     newborn brothers were
abandoned to the Tiber     & delivered

keening for milk     to their mongrel lives
we     too     were borne by a savage river

to a mother    waiting on the Palatine shore

Capitoline Wolf

“Lupercalia” appears in my chapbook, This Being Done, which will be available for pre-sale purchase at Finishing Line Press, starting next week! Stay tuned for more announcements, including the order link on the Finishing Line Press website as soon as it goes live!