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.

My Cat is Bread

wheat-field

because     what is a purr
but the promise of nourishment realized
in the rhythmic release of the heat
that’s accumulated in pockets
with the rise & fall of her breath?

& what is a bagel
if not a nose meeting the base of a tail
& little pink berry & black currant toes
neatly tucked to sleepy chin
all curled around a heart
that holds no lack?

because basking on my windowsill
in a pretzel of scruff     limbs     salt-tang
& afternoon-sifted sun     she is keenly sweet
like a wheat field’s essence of summer wind
in the last days before the harvest     hearty
with the warmth of a freshly-baked marble rye

because whenever i’m away from home
i long for her     knowing she’s there ‘kneading’
enough for the both of us (for     let’s be honest
no pillowy provender of fleece to grace my bed
has managed to preserve its store-bought virginity
for much more than an hour)

& because     although
I realize the time she yet has with me
will be fleeting    she will ever remain
the loaf of my life

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

UPDATE: Our sweet Hannah passed away from cancer at age 14 yrs. 5months on Friday, January 27, 2017. She lived with unapologetic grace, generously gave to us of her healing energy, and died with stoic dignity. RIP, beautiful girl…

The house has been empty and strange without her, but my grief is tempered by my gratitude and awe for the magical connection this quirky, smart, territorial, eight-pound (in her heyday), dog-terrorizing wonder of a creature made with her human family. Such is the spiritually-rich and filling nature of the “Bread of Life.”

hannah-2016

Hannah, age 14 yrs. 3 mos.