Avium Morbum MMXVII

Chickadee

Photo by Cameren Harper, May 2017

This spring, it seemingly isn’t enough
that we’ve once again converted our porch
into a brood-rearing safe haven:
The once-adorable, amiable models
of avian parental prowess that have been
gracing us with their proximity
for years, are now a couple of flighty,
black & white fluff-balls of aggression. 

It’s like their little bird brains just
suddenly lost all sense of perspective—
their former bearing of healthy respect
toward us & our home has morphed
into a hostile face-off of assaults
on the front door window, dive-bombing
campaigns on the car in the driveway,
replete with poo, & kamikaze-style strikes
on their equally-fraught reflections
in the side-view mirror.

Why, my teen-aged son has been asking,
are the Chickadees being so stupid?

Of course, he already understands
that the answer to his question lies
in another question—which, come to think
of it, is THE question that everyone I know
has been asking for months, since nobody
is really surprised anymore when something
extreme, irrational, or just plain opposite-of-
intelligent happens—it’s as if the Bizarro World
episode of Seinfeld just started up again on its own,
& in its antithetical-T.V.-show fashion, decided
never to end—because, apparently, Nature, itself,
is being required to stretch its fabric all out of proportion
in effort to accommodate the unprecedentedly-dense
troposphere’s lambasting winds; but I find myself

ask-answering him, anyway, if only half-hopeful
that this serum synthesized of not-reasons might yet
suffice to inoculate him against such rife contagion:

Do they remind you of anyone?

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Avium Morbum MMXVII” was first drafted during the May 2017 Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge.

My new poetry chapbook, This Being Done, is available for advance copy purchase at Finishing Line Press from now until April 27, 2018. The number of orders received during this two-month pre-publication sales period will determine the size of the print run, which is currently scheduled for release on June 22, 2018. For more info CLICK HERE!

Stopping by Clothes with a White Fur Gifting

LuAnne Holder’s parody of Frost’s “Stopping by Woods…,” a piece after my own heart, has officially made my day! 🐈

Wind Rush

Star on Black2

Which cat did this, oh my who knows
This leaving fur upon my clothes
She did it while I was away
On my black dress she took repose

My cats are not ones to delay
To seek out nap spots black or grey
And leave white fur just to remind
Me that their love will never stray

So any clothes left out they’ll find
The dark ones are the grandest kind
To rest white bellies for contrast
This deed they think they’ve been assigned

If I don’t want to be aghast
I’ll hang my clothes and do it fast
This I’ve figured out at last
This I’ve figured out at last

I have always loved the poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, particularly its interesting rhyme scheme. Inspired by SLHARPERPOETRY’s clever rewrite of Lewis Carroll’s Jaberwokey as Trumplewokey, I decided to do a rewrite…

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Two Valentine’s Day Poems

keep-calm-and-make-it-so

For Mike

1. First Date with The Next Generation

In the Engineering Research Building
the wall in his cubicle proudly donned
a life-sized poster of Jean-Luc Picard 

I hid the double-take (or, tried to); he later massaged
the crick in my neck, a liberty allowed by a Liberal Artist
donning naught above the waist but her bare pride…

Marriage of the proverbial hemispheres ensued.

 

2. Somehow, Swept Off My Feet

Though one task at hand must be completed, before you attempt
(or become conscious of) the next, and I blaspheme those tinselly,
emblematic bits of solder accumulating beneath our feet,

then breathe long sighs of relief when you finally sweep them
into sparkly heaps and throw them away; I realize, too, that neither
the privilege of living with an Engineer in his natural habitat, nor

my Work in Progress status, are honors bestowed frivolously.

 

Once, again, I’ve stepped into the Wayback Machine to retrieve these relics from the valley of yester-yore upon which the fuzzy fog of middle age has since permanently settled. Here’s to those things of beauty in our lives that never change!

Wishing all you poets and engineers, alike, out there a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Hope Springs Eternal & So Does Willie Nelson

first-buds-forming

Another death hoax? Gee, how original…
You folks ain’t fickle—guess I’ll give ya points
fer grit if not fer gumption. I’ve rolled joints
my friends, far stiffer than my tricky ankle,
imbibed red wine that’s older than yer gran’;
this here bandana holds more DNA
than most small countries on a holiday,
so keep your Internet! Just leave the bedpan
close, gas up the bus, & brace for twenty
more long years—well, give or take a decade.
The road’s a callin’, songs are in my head,
& my ol’ guitar plays as good as any;
there’s plenty weed to smoke & hair to braid:
So’s far as I can tell, I’m still not dead.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Hope Springs Eternal…” came to defile the earth as a result of being generously sponsored by Robert Okaji — whose behest it was for me to write a “Sonnet Ending with Three Words from a Willie Nelson Song,” which included the words, “wine, weed, and guitar,” and was preferably “Petrarchan” — during the May 2017 Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge.

I post it today in protest of having to endure one more minute of Trumplewocky & Co. without being sufficiently anesthetized.

Trumplewocky

trumplewocky1

‘Twas feckish, and the irkly grobes
Did fark and fistle in the slade;
All dingly were the rectiprobes
And the dampnuts updrade.

“Beware the Trumplewock, my friend!
The bigly mouth, those puny mitts!
Beware the Tweet bird, and off-fend
The cronious Perkletits!”

She packed her poisal voice and went:
Fat chance the vapid imp she’d spare—
So quivered he ‘neath his Cheeto tree,
And feebly cried, “Unfair!”

And, as the greelish light grew pale,
The Trumplewock, with wits of wood,
Came grabbling through the femly vale
Because he thought he could!

Eins, zwei! Eins, zwei! And quick as pie
The poisal voice sliced fierce and true:
“Go flay yourself, you mawkish elf,
And burn the residue!”

The Trumplewock would rue the day
He left his diddlepot of lack.
The frankish words would haunt him ‘til
He went galumphing back.

‘Twas feckish, and the irkly grobes
Did fark and fistle in the slade;
All dingly were the rectiprobes
And the dampnuts updrade.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Trumplewocky” first appeared on this blog in February 2017. It was inspired by the monstrous farce (still!!!) inhabiting the White House, and Lewis Carroll’s timeless masterpiece, JABBERWOCKY.

Confessional

Toilet-Paper-Art

     Today I used a piece of toilet paper
(ingenious how the squares are perforated)
           as a bookmark,

     to mark the beginning
of a story in a journal
           I pretended to mean to read soon.

      My own pretensions in the bathroom, I’d guess,
are no more elaborate than those of any other,
           but we prefer not to confess them,

     which is why confessionals nowadays tend to be
outfitted with porcelain & brass conveniences, & vanities
           of granite stacked with prayers, or leastways

     paperbacks (suggestive of prayerful reflection,
a well-regarded, liturgical means of bargaining one’s way out
           of bondage to repugnant functions),

     all to function as a colossal ruse—for truly,
we know no sleight-of-hand swipe performed (however
           adroitly the unrolled squares are wadded

     or folded), nor our most adroit illusions of luxury
contrived of bodacious poses over prodigal devices,
           can justify such unnatural exertions.

     Nature’s call is much like that of the cleric’s behind
his proverbial curtain—indeed, a loaded business
           we can’t but answer.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Who, me? Employ a fallacy of equivocation? NE-VER!

The Rabbit

rabbit

Once upon a midday gleaming, as the sun perched, eager-seeming,
above my homestead’s weedy patches of forgotten sod,
whilst I sighed, wondrous with gloom—oh, how that sky did fiercely loom!—
upon my yard’s bedraggled flora a brown-grayish rabbit gnawed—
with a certain pluck & gusto, chose its clumps, & briskly gnawed,
ever mindful where it trod.

I presumed it was a visitor from lettuce fields abroad,
for it was fuzzy, quick & small, cute as a little cotton ball,
but unlike any other rabbit that I’d ever seen before…
I distinctly don’t recall if it was springtime, or late fall—
where I live, these stark environs kind of always look like fall—
lacking features to enthrall.

Soon, my feelings started seeping—the way shadows take to creeping—
from their places of safekeeping, ‘til they lumbered into view
(as for that moment’s peace I’d sought, when with my sanctuary wrought,
I’d crawled inside to stay—& stayed much longer than I knew,
It could’ve dried & blown away, for all I really knew…)—
& there was nothing I could do.

Now, the rabbit, on grasses chewing—my soul eschewing—is my undoing:
My vain attempts to woo it hither churn up far too much ado,
so, I’m here, just sitting, stewing, my years accruing (they keep accruing)
of the untold days’ ensuing—garish sunlight streaming through
(when all is said & done, I’ll bet that sun just seeps right through!);
also, I’d swear that fur-ball grew!

With this craving so unnerving, I will wither undeserving
of even one, small, savory serving of Hasenpfeffer stew—
my wee compadre, to be sure, won’t soon be rapping at my door:
I could with tears & snot implore, writhing prostrate on the floor
but it wouldn’t give two shits if I dried up right on this floor—
yet to hunger, evermore!

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Here’s to art imitating poetry imitating poets imitating life—or something like that…

Thanksgiving

Wild Turkey

The birds have been beheaded, stripped of togs.
 The winter squash has made it to the store.
Cranberries left behind Wisconsin bogs.
Potatoes are appreciated more.

We’ll gather at the table for our spread,
& hungry mouths will start to salivate:
“Please pass the butter!”––“Don’t forget the bread!”––
“I’ll take a breast!”––“Pile taters on my plate!”

To celebrate abundance with respect
for those who till the soil & reap the wheat––
we’ll drug them up with tryptophan’s effect,
& top it off with pie to call it sweet…

Then, pants unbuttoned, lying on the floor,
we’ll muster up the strength to eat some more!

I stepped into the Wayback Machine to retrieve this one! Wishing you and yours out there in WordPress land a blessed Thanksgiving recovery! Since I’m decidedly NOT thankful for the genocide of Native Americans that is an irredeemable blight on our Nation’s past (not that we’re doing so hot in the present, either), I’ve been thinking of  this day as a remembrance of everything that’s wholesome, just, good purely for goodness’ sake, and enriching in this life! Thanks, fellow bloggers and friends, for your abiding, positive presence in cyberspace, and for making a difference for me, and for each other! With love to all!

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Dilated

house finch

To think that we see
them so often     yet so rarely consider
how those piebald songbirds     so at home
on a snow-scape in their portable parkas
are made of the exact same stuff we use
to fill up our electric sky      & shocking
watermelon nylon winter coats     which must be
designed expressly for us to go out there looking
ridiculous     not to mention callous (clothed     as it were
in outright exploitation)—is the thing I’m pondering
as I observe through the window a little house finch
all feathery & poofed with his flushed cheeks
flitting over the snowy patio     pecking among the abandoned
bench-feet for invisible     if not entirely non-existent
morsels     & hawking an air of self-possession that is obvious
even to me in my current     incapacitated state

As for whether the red-crowned
retina specialist who conducted my examination
was young &/or fetching     the prospect was relatively murky
(the simultaneity of his brisk entrance with the climax
of my dilation expertly flourished by his robust clasping of my
hand     had inspired my conjecture that he might’ve been both)
& you’d better believe all bets were off the very moment
the white-cloaked     smeary hulk of him ambushed my defenseless
retinas with an impossibly aggressive radiant device
thus affording me the pivotal elucidation:
that a). the anomaly on my fundus autofluourescence images
is simply an unremarkable patch of variegated pigmentation
b). it was only natural to expect that the definition
of such a lexical wonder as variegated would elude the layperson
& c). I am indeed obliged by gratuitous pigeonholing
to take categorical offense

Not that I’m usually so bold
as to co-opt medical jargon     but I’m pretty certain
variegated is the only word that could aptly
account for what’s right now comprising
the better part of my visual experience
as embodied by this polka-dotty
aberration     also known as a scone
I resorted to purchasing in the hospital café
thus affording myself the pivotal illusion:
that a). I’m quite absorbed in an earnest task
while waiting here in the lobby for my ride
b). I wouldn’t otherwise be averting
my freakish     black gaze from passersby
& c). I’m the kind of person
who always smiles at everyone     as if to say
I accept you for who you are no matter what…    
 
From its orange piquancy
I’ve gathered that the scone’s dark splotches must
be cranberries—however vainly their vaguely moist
sweet-tang serves to redeem their crumbly substrate’s
alleged alimentary function

Still     the finch remains
staunchly committed to my functional blindness
as if by sheer force of his impending command
its concomitant scone-silage would transcend
the glass     & sift to the frozen ground

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

It may not surprise you to learn that I wrote this poem in January 2017, while brooding over a certain sociopolitical debacle. This is its first exposure to the light of day…