Rhapsody in Bone

Rhapsody in Bone

Beneath the frozen fathoms of the sea,
a maiden’s body swells in rhapsody;
her father made her sustenance for fish
and creatures yet unseen by human eyes,
who feed until the carrion is spent.

The maiden’s bones roll over with the tide,
entwined with deep-sea coral colonies,
and where her eyes were, now are dwellings kept
by denizens who have no need of light
beneath the frozen fathoms of the sea.

Though water’s currents quell the dolphins’ calls,
the doleful cries her fecund corpse intones
uncoil the sodden hearts of others’ souls,
while hers, forsaken, flounders in the dark.
A maiden’s body belts a rhapsody,

because her father threw her from a cliff:
butt-hurt that she’d flat-out refused to stroke
his ego (teeny-peeny sack, he was,
of whims that changed as often as the winds),
her father made her sustenance for fish,

yet could not stop his daughter’s sunken bones
from breathing sirens’ cantos on the waves
and luring hunters to her icy grave—
that home to lonely spirits of the depths
and creatures yet unseen by human eyes!

A hunter plunks his line into the sea,
where deep below, a bony treasury
still bears the stench of murder’s milky dregs,
a tangy lunch for urchins clinging fast,
who feed until the carrion is spent.

Upon the swaying surf the hunter waits
with hero’s grit,’til suddenly, a lurch—
he’s hooked the skeleton woman’s rib! This catch
has heft suggesting banquets fit for kings,
who feed until the carrion is spent!

Oy veh! He hoists her bones onto his skiff
and shits his britches fearing he’s been cursed
by Death, herself, arisen from the depths—
her salt-worn bones a host for writhing eels,
and creatures yet unseen by human eyes!

Try as he may to toss her back, he finds
her long front teeth affixed—and can’t deny
this woman he’s revived deserves to live:
those naked, tangled limbs, her smooth, bald head…
Her father made her sustenance for fish,

yet could not stop his daughter’s sunken bones
from going viral with their exposés—
though water tries to quash the dolphins’ calls—
for songs of fuckhead fathers make us sick,
when maidens’ bodies swell in rhapsody!

Though many hunters know the songs of bones,
scarce few boast true cajones, fewer still
behold the face of Death with steadfast gaze,
and grow to love and keep all she became
beneath the frozen fathoms of the sea.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Rhapsody in Bone” was first published in May 2017, in editor Nate Ragolia’s awesome journal, Boned: A Collection of Skeletal Writings, and was subsequently included in my chapbook, This Being Done.

Concerning the Delay of My Self-Immolation

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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!

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Chimera

chimera
Chimera 

Had you been capable of opening
your eyes     you’d have seen

that the obvious upside
to my unique coalescence

of scaly-headed tail     caprid skull
leonine belly     & three belching maws

was my reliable prescience
to forewarn of cataclysm     but

you never ceased to make monstrosity
your sticking point

Even your Lycean forbears’ stories
of the diaspora—        of how my children’s

fetal cells drifted from my womb     endured
the eons amidst the vessel & sinew landscapes

of aliens     & were ultimately delivered
to their new     craggy homeland beyond

the blood-brain cordon    to spawn a nation
of discrete selves as rare & fierce as their maker—

have failed    it seems     to inspire
your affection…

Was the transgression of my seething
once upon a time beneath your collective

hunkering in the basalt’s depths
so heinous as to name me     Anathema

so aberrant as to exonerate
your assassin’s sullying of Pegasus?

Though murder carapaces your shuddering
heads from my ash cloud’s descent

yet know this:     your lost-wax fairytales
have no more tempered the face of who I am

than cast the specter from the dark
hell-fire you dream:     that yet I am

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Vessel

“Chimera” was first published in Isacoustic* in May 2018. Thank you to editor and poet Barton Smock for selecting this piece for inclusion in Isacoustic* vol. the fourth.

Tribute

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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

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“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.

 

Lupercalia

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Lupercalia

We probe into the distant    wintry
rest of white oaks & umbrella pines

moonlit with longing to thrill
in the feral     hesitant glints

that crack the black tourmaline cold
our eyes pursuing their penumbrae

until the brink of blindness    reaching
for our bloodline of lost

infidel selves     still bound
to the night’s crystalline tenors

As our illicit     newborn brothers were
abandoned to the Tiber     & delivered

keening for milk     to their mongrel lives
we     too     were borne by a savage river

to a mother    waiting on the Palatine shore

Capitoline Wolf

“Lupercalia” appears in my chapbook, This Being Done, which will be available for pre-sale purchase at Finishing Line Press, starting next week! Stay tuned for more announcements, including the order link on the Finishing Line Press website as soon as it goes live!

Anatomy of a Fustercluck

Starling_Fustercluck

It’s thanks to crime scenes like this
that I sometimes dread people,
particularly the way they flock to orange pylons,
fluster in clumps like maimed birds,
and hatch out stories,
which are always either parboiled in half-truths,
or scrambled by hypocrisy. 

Take that camera-laden busy-body, for instance,
piqued there, barely disguising her hope
of spawning a murmuration—
donning her intrepidly purple polo,
she’s the self-declared ruler
of the pecking order that’s been bred into us
for the engendering of our chronicles:

Clearly, she knows how to swaddle her offspring
with ample pageantry
to ensure the stork’s swift delivery
of her inchoate prince.

Like Cronus, her Titan predecessor,
who swallowed up his own children
to thwart the prophecy of his time-driven demise,
she’s devouring a flood of raw peptides
from the sea-thick breeze
wafting right past the preoccupied deputy,
to sate her enduring appetite
for stone-cold lies.

Meanwhile, that blond-haired man
in the short shorts and flip-flops,
fixated on his faux-gold wristwatch,
has been pacing this whole time
on the cluster’s fringe,
completely cracked.

If you ask me,
he’s as guilty as the day is long.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Anatomy of a Fustercluck” won the Rattle Magazine January 2016 Ekphrastic Challenge, and appears in my forthcoming chapbook, THIS BEING DONE (Finishing Line Press, available for pre-publication order February 2018 — stay tuned for more information!!). I’ve been thinking a lot these days about crime scenes, guilt, and the fraught task of sorting out sensationalism from the horrors of reality… That’s all.

An Elegy for Birds & Bees

When a woman pretends to press her life down into a nice, tidy little package, all she accomplishes is spring-loading all her vital energy down into shadow. ‘Fine. I’m fine,’ such a woman says… Then one day, we hear she has taken up with a piccolo player and has run off to Tippicanoe to be a pool hall queen…”  Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Photo,

Photo, “Lavender Kiss,” by Kilauea Productions owner, Matthew Harper

over & over in habitual drone
i repeat a phrase in my mind that no one knows i say
because i have not told
i am saying i’m done
but this being done
is the rending burden i will never be done bearing
even though my climbing son
a speck eighty feet high in a skyline of swaying cedars
can heft the storm clouds away
from his own silvery horizon
& my seeking daughter
has tenacity enough     without me
to prize out four leaf clovers
from speciously green reaches
but i will never release
this breath of finality that i keep
choked in my throat behind earnest songs for my children
no     & i will swallow the rising bile
when the Northern Flicker perches
on our aluminum chimney top     puffed-up
so proud in those marrow-less bones
of his impervious skull’s clever     territorial ricocheting

being done happened
within my own sinew-lined pelvis
the cracked bowl
filled     drained     & refilled
with meticulously rich essences
long after anything living had been fed
the relentlessly heavy     gnawing
red slough of losing myself
to nothing     for nothing
frightened me
& so     i had the offending flesh cut out
the fossilized rind that was left is now locked
with its un-told stories
beneath eons of hardened sediments

this being done happens in spring
while i am driving alone
it happens quickly
in instants of lapsed attention
in overzealous moments of stony apathy
when windshield wipers stick unexpectedly
or when sudden     pink shafts of evening sun
transmute newborn lambs bucking fervently
for tender grass & mother’s milk
into silhouettes haunting the roadside
the being done
is all these countless     fleeting deaths
i tear into strips     soak in chewed glue
& fashion together to house myself
in a prodigal     crinkled     purgatorial prune

these tiny     stinging     imprudent suicides
should all be spirited away from their haughty blooms
& borne into the ancient hive
clutched industriously
to the undersides of fuzzy exoskeletons
there     my secret     greedy orchestrations
would become coded in sacred routines
my life programmed in dance
& propagated by ecstatic waggles & fastidious figure eights
to a crescendo of communal comprehension
of the one     seminal purpose
of the being done that shall be

done at all costs
the Queen’s Royal Jelly must be
sealed with wax in her hexagonal vaults

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“An Elegy for Birds & Bees” made its debut appearance in Slippery Elm Literary Journal, December 2015. It was a finalist in the 2015 Slippery Elm Poetry Prize, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

My poem, “Prologue to My Birth” is up at Bonnie McClellan’s International Poetry Month Celebration

Lavender Kiss_Matthew Harper

My poem, “Prologue to My Birth,” is up at esteemed editor, translator, poet and artist, Bonnie McClellan’s 2017 International Poetry Month Celebration! Bonnie will be featuring a poem per day for 28 days following this year’s theme, “Neural Networks: The Creative Power of Language.” I hope you’ll enjoy following this rich, diverse, international network of creative voices. Thank you for your support!

January 2017 Open Mic

I am participating in the January 2017 Open Mic on Words and Feathers. Please go to the link provided to hear a rendition of my poem, “Anatomy of a Fustercluck,” which was recorded with help from my son, Matthew.

Many thanks to Crow for hosting this event!

Anatomy of a Fustercluck made its first and only prior appearance on Rattle magazine’s website in February 2016.

Words and Feathers

It’s a new year. We’ve all got these feelings still building up inside us like moisture inside a kernel of popcorn  If we don’t let them out soon, POP! out insides will be outsides and no amount of butter and salt will make it better.

I’m here for you. The January 2017 Open Mic is now open for you to record your poems/songs/rants/diatribes. But please, no money-making schemes.

The Skinny:

  1. Record yourself reading one of your own works.
  2. Post it on your site.
  3. Include a link to this site in your post.
    OR Comment on that month’s call for entries
    OR send me a message using the contact form.
  4. I will post a link with your name and poem title RIGHT HERE.
  5. It’s an open mic invitation. NOT a challenge.

Some tips:

  • Go simple.
    I record using my iPhone, then email/share the file with myself. I very rarely edit it…

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