Cephalopod

 

Cephalopod

I know how you tried to befuddle me
with that ten-legged head of yours—
 
how you thought you’d streak by
& ink me blind, but I see
 
how it is: I mean, once your penetrating-
obsidian eyes shone the ocean alive,
 
that cute little stunt of tucking back
your longest tentacles, as if you could

pass for being one of the girls, almost
like innocuous, trifling, bipedal me,
 
was glaringly obvious. I know your beak
was really poised from the start to strike—
 
to take my breath into your breath,
& crack open my sternum, & feast
 
on the still-thudding muscle inside me—
because motoring between my mere
 
two legs, primed to be torpedoed
with your mantle, until I tauten
 
like a caecum gorged on tiger prawns,
is the same jet-propulsion as yours
 
worked in reverse…

“Cephalopod” recently languished on a short list for an inordinate amount of time — poor guy — before ultimately being rejected, so I’ve just decided to share him! 

Dead Rose at 5 Points Local

I can’t begin to express how deeply soul-nurturing it is for me to collaborate with such an extraordinarily generous and brilliant man and poet as Robert Okaji!

O at the Edges

Dead Rose at 5 Points Local
(A collaborative poem written with Stephanie L. Harper)

Having plucked the disheveled
petals from the core,
she waits
for the dead to speak
of last week’s sweetness—

of damp upholstery
and worn-out shoes,
of locked chests
and the faint honey
of unrealized hope.

Magnetized,
I twist the stem;
I quarter the seeds and
blemish the plate.
Which north rings true?

Which faded-red
bridge reveals the lost
inner compass?
Our ice cubes clink
no answers, as the essences

of hibiscus, lavender,
and mint slip over my tongue,
concealing the cool
tang of her demurring
ghosts…

But when she says whisper,
touching her lips
with an index finger,
I hear distant trains
baying like wolves,

and smell the char of nights
trailing the undiminished
river, its waters flowing
in every possible
direction, away.

* * *

“Dead Rose at 5 Points Local” first appeared in

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Review of Stephanie L. Harper’s The Death’s Head’s Testament

WOW!
The inimitably brilliant, insightful, and sensitive Daniel Paul Marshall has written a gorgeous review of my new chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament! Please take a look, and consider pre-ordering a copy for just $6.50 each!

Daniel Paul Marshall

The Death’s Head’s
Testament

continues on from Stephanie’s previous book This
Being Done
& fortunate for us Stephanie is in the present progressive,
hammering out the dimensions of poems. The poems here continue to wade in the
difficulties of womanhood, family, child-rearing, love, life, memory &
death.

There
is wakeful invention, an intellectual alacrity, sure-footedness even on the
tremulous ground of the heart in the track of each advancing line. Something
common-place, is elevated to heightened importance if only for it being what it
is: a potential for articulation & loving.

Despite
the morbidity of the title, I hope (well-founded on the verve of being a
life-bringer & cultivator, which Stephanie wears unashamedly on her sleeve)
that Stephanie isn’t concerned as Roy Fisher expresses in Poplars that“I think I
am afraid of becoming a cemetery of performance.” Stephanie’s performance is to
be anticipated.

Stephanie sets off from a harbour in…

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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.

3 Poems Up At CatheXis Northwest

house finch

Thank you to editor C. M. Tollefson and the poetry editing team at CatheXis Northwest for publishing my 3 poems, “Aubade with Smoke,” “Dilated,” and “What a Patriot Dreams.”

The latter two poems also appear in my newest chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament, scheduled for release by Main Street Rag in March 2019, and available now for advance order @ $6.50 per copy.

Cvr_Death'sHead_Ad (1)

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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A New Poem Up at BONED!

I’m thrilled to share the news that my poem, “Rhapsody in Bone” — a bit of formal verse for the 21st century… — is featured at the wonderful web journal, BONED! I’m grateful to editor Nate Ragolia for giving my quirky piece inspired by an ancient Inuit myth such a lovely and fitting home.

“Rhapsody in Bone” appears in my new chapbook, This Being Done, available now from Finishing Line Press. Orders will ship in June 2018.