Letter from the Other Side of Halfway

Vision Board_GISH 2016
Letter from the Other Side of Halfway

Dear Bob: In one of my former incarnations
as a starving, family-less, twenty-something Grad
Student, well before the advent of emails & texting,
when handwritten sentiments on stationery were still
in vogue, I certainly sent my share of “Dear Bob Letters.”
The recipients thereof, on the whole a far cry from being
remotely “Bob-like,” included a number of real posers,
some of whom now strut & crow on Facebook like
the ancient, hoary roosters (read: cocks) they clearly are.
As for the others (more of them than you might imagine),
they’re all dead, several by their own hands, even—a stone-
cold statistic (the seeming synchronicity of which is tough
to ignore) I frequently grapple with, sorting through conjured,
a posteriori details & associated, surreal imagery by day, &
chasing after egotistical ghosts in my über-symbolic dreams
by night, always with the conviction that some message for me
yet lurks in the dry lakebeds & sunless recesses of the Nether,
a realm to which the tips of my toes & then some are no strangers.

The only window-treatment manning the threshold between
me & my secrets is a translucent-pink swath of chiffon,
which I’m afraid doesn’t leave much to the imagination—
so consider yourself warned, amico mio! Against the current
backdrop of imbecilic plutocrats, political sycophants,
& psychopaths bearing assault rifles, hardly to be tempered
by the incidental, decent soul, it would not take a discerning
eye long to know me better than I know myself, which is just
about the only thing I know anymore…

In my attempts to locate myself, I often look to nature—
these days, it’s among the imposing Sequoias we boast here
in the Northwest, along with the showy cottonwoods, as fertile
as they are indiscriminate, stripping off their seed-fluff every
chance they get, a prospect that doesn’t seem to bother
the scrub jays deigning to my level for a squawk now & then
before ascending to a higher branch. Whatever folks might say
about birds of a feather, well, after a number of earnest stints
shadowing the local hens—the way they kept those vibrant
petticoats tucked under their brown slickers, & their biting
commentary having seemed uniquely suited to the cold & rain—
I’ve yet to locate my flock, & the search has turned southeastward:
Taking a tip from the meadowlark, I veer for the high desert,
my flight path crossing the sagebrush-dotted, volcanic earth,
hoping I’ll soon look down & see you floating
in a sea of ten gallon hats, just beyond the convection
columns braced against the electric blue sky.

I don’t suppose your self-claimed exile looks anything
like I’ve imagined? It’s not with a small twinge of jealousy
that I seek consolation in your brand of solitude on the other
side of that horizon line; as exile, it would seem to me,
involves the condition of having at some point belonged
somewhere. Now, after a lifetime spent standing out in my field,
I’m not very handy at extrapolating any other kind of belonging,
& feel I ought to find out what I’ve been missing.

So, I’m heading out past the Cascades & the swaggering
sage grouses of the eastern uplands, reaching for that horizon—
green seeping to red, clouds feathering out, & no further from us
than one step beyond our any given station—where you can be
sure I’ll always be no more than a step away from you, & ever
your honest friend, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Western Meadowlark

“Letter from the Other Side of Halfway,” my response to Robert Okaji’s gorgeously soul-fortifying poem, “Letter to Harper from Halfway to the Horizon,” was first penned during the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project in May 2017, and subsequently published in Underfoot Poetry (thank you to editors/authors Daniel Paul Marshall and Tim Miller for generously hosting my work!) in July 2018. This piece also appears in my newest chapbook, The Death-Head’s Testament, NOW available for presale order (@ $6.50 per copy, a significant discount off the cover price!), scheduled for release in March 2019.

Poem Up at Formidable Woman

The fantabulous Robert Okaji and I have collaborated on this “found-prompt” poem, inspired by and ultimately published by editor D. Ellis Phelps! What a wonderfully rewarding poetic experience! 💖💖💖

O at the Edges

“Dead Rose at 5 Points Local,” a collaborative poem with Stephanie L. Harper, is live at Formidable Woman. Many thanks to d. ellis phelps for taking this piece, and for offering the prompt which set it in motion.

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The Death’s-Head’s Testament

Announcing my newest poetry chapbook:

Cvr_Death'sHead_Ad (1)

Hello My Poetry-Loving WordPress Friends!

Here’s the scoop: Main Street Rag has opened advanced sales at $6.50 per copy for my newest poetry chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament, scheduled for release in March 2019! This generous discount off of the $12.00 cover price will be offered for a limited time, so be sure to take advantage of it soon!

ORDER HERE!

Thank you so much, everyone, for your engagement with and support of my work! I couldn’t have come this far without you!

Once, again, credit for this breathtaking cover photo goes to my son, Matthew Harper.

Thank you, also, to editor M. Scott Douglas at Main Street Rag for a terrific design!

 

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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Family Road Trip

Family Road Trip

Family Road Trip

As we cross from Idaho into Utah,
the speed limit increases to 80 MPH,
& the evening empties
itself of the day’s summer ire,
letting it bubble on the horizon,
like the burgeonings that grace
the faces of teenagers just emerged
from backseat oblivion

to find themselves
metamorphosed from neophytes
into sleek, lanky-limbed
molehill-monumentalization
experts overnight.

Somewhere between the relative
metropolises of Ogden & Salt Lake City,
we breeze past a little town
that sprouted in the morning
shadow of a mountain,
& is now
consummating its time-dilated version
of a storm-cloud’s single day & night;

& I think how this place must be
the torpor of teenagers incarnate—
tucked in its little bed, & brimming
with confoundedness—

mustering the elements
it will tower into a thing of splendor.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

See the source image

Reach

 Reach_firelines

Reach 

Reach for me, for I am
not made of this
fleshy shell; I am deeper.

Reach to the beyond-bone of me,
to the warm & ancient
dark of me.

Find where all my unsaying
resides & swells nameless,
& with your tongue, teach me
to speak. Reach
into the buried of me, stoke
& survey the embers
of my death-preceded devouring,
score my borders,
& till my soil nitrogenous.

Then let me be a sieve for your waters,
& for the salt of your deep,
the belly of hope.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

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!

Bone Antler Stone by Tim Miller, a review

Daniel Paul Marshall’s review of the poetry book, *Bone Antler Stone*, by Tim Miller. Marshall’s celebratory and contemplative response to Miller’s poetic accomplishment is a work of poetry in its own right — it is an earnest “giving” in the interest of promoting human connection. As a poet, I can’t imagine a more moving or rewarding experience than receiving such a “gift” as this in response to my own work; and as someone who’s had the great fortune of reading *Bone Antler Stone*, I must say that I concur with DPM’s analysis and praise.

Daniel Paul Marshall

I’m aware this “review” could potentially end up as flat out extolment for a poet who has become my friend and whose poems I was fortunate enough to have read in their early drafts. Am I biased? Probably. But I am going to make an effort to evidence what makes this a worthy read. There is plenty to evidence and I hope in tandem with my personal praise, this review will not be exposed as a sycophantic exposition.

Tim Miller’s Bone Antler Stone (The High Window Press) begins, ablaze, with the poem Fire Houses. What seems to have been an ancient procedure of renewal (Tim’s query in Fire Houses II later on: “Why would they do this to their houses/every generation of so…?” for me, supports this, in a whole poem dedicated to the question) seems to be Tim’s symbolic way of nudging us toward a spirit of…

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Tribute

boulder-stream
Tribute

No muse     per se     whispers
infusions into my burning ear
not that it would be in my nature

to entice some demigoddess to swell
with lust     hover about my head
& grace me with facility in the arts

such that I might woo hearts into believing
in my sanctity (as if I’d ever assent
to some covetous little bitch’s attempts

to trademark my own     voluptuous
intellect with her dousings of silvery
moonbeams & purple pixie dust)

which isn’t to say that no one ever garners my tribute
No     of course not     for there’s always been a certain monsieur: 
Arnos     namesake of the Neoliths’ river     to move     to flow

mounting pulse    to culminating flutter
his flux of rapture & cruelty
rising like a god in me

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Italy-Rome-Tiber-River-God-Sculpture

“Tribute” was published in the Fall 2017 edition of Harbinger Asylum. Thank you to editor Dustin Pickering and guest-editor Z. M. Wise for selecting this piece.