Concerning the Delay of My Self-Immolation
“Ich kenne nichts Ärmeres
Unter der Sonn’, als euch Götter!”
_______________~ J. W. von Goethe’s “Prometheus”
when i sacrifice myself
as a gift to my fellow humans
i promise it will be for nothing
so hackneyed as to protest
some hypoxic septuagenarian
hunched on a mountaintop
mistaking every garish tendril
to wisp from his head
for a well-honed lightning bolt
not that i imagine
there’s any portion of my no-longer-
combustible flesh i might set
upon the balance that could be
tendered for passage to Elysium
but you can believe i’d pluck my own eyes
from their conceding sockets send
the fabrics from my padded scaffold back
to China & traipse forever a blind
naked-as-a-mole-rat gnome in the garden of
unscented flowers if the stygian prophecies
were to divine any semblance of purpose
in chaining my corpse to the cliff face
& though these desiccating seasons
have yet to assemble
me into fuel for Helios’ pyre
if ever my splitting spurs should cease
to cry out dragon’s blood
i will crescendo
my twilight’s fury on the horizon—
my flames will soar
like an eagle on a Titan’s breath
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
“Concerning the Delay of My Self-Immolation” made its debut appearance in Robert Penick’s fabulous literary journal, Ristau: A Journal of Being, in January 2019. It also appears in my new chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament, scheduled for release in March 2019! Please check out sample poems and early praise for this collection on my Author Page at Main Street Rag, and consider purchasing a copy at the terrific limited-time discount of $6.50!
I wish I had words to express how much your support of my work means to me. Please just enjoy the poems, and know that I’m immensely grateful!
Live Feed from the SW Florida Eagle Cam
For E9, Born December 31, 2016
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
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
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 first published in the Winter 2017 issue of The Ibis Head Review, and appears in my first chapbook, THIS BEING DONE. If you enjoy my poetry on this blog, you might also consider checking out my newest chapbook, THE DEATH’S-HEAD’S TESTAMENT, scheduled for release by Main Street Rag in March 2019, and available for pre-order sales NOW for a huge discount at $6.50 per copy!
I’M SO VERY GRATEFUL TO OUR COMMUNITY ON WORDPRESS FOR ALL YOUR AMAZING FEEDBACK, SUPPORT, AND FRIENDSHIP! MY LIFE AND MY POETRY WOULDN’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT YOU!
*I’ve been following parents extraordinaire, Harriet and M-15, and their gorgeous eaglets for three seasons now. Check out the stupendous progress being made minute to minute by this year’s little dinosaur siblings, E12 and E13 on the SW Florida Eagle Cam!
Robert Okaji’s poetic tour de force, “Wind,” tops the list of Krista Stevens’ feature, Throwback Thursday: 5 Favorite Posts of 2018 on Discover!
Prepare for your breath to be taken away!
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
“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.
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! 💖💖💖
Announcing my newest poetry chapbook:
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!
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.
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!
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…
View original post 194 more words
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
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
mustering the elements
it will tower into a thing of splendor.
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
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