3 Poems Up at Literati Magazine!

Many thanks to editor Renée Sigel of Literati Magazine for featuring my poems, “Rewording,” “Titanoboa cerrejonensis,” and “Ghazal of the Lost,” in the publication’s Portfolio Series of previously rejected poems. Yes, a majority of my poems that make it out into the world tend to experience a healthy dose of rejection before seeing the light of day, and I greatly appreciate that Renée saw fit to bring these three stragglers in out of the cold.

While “Ghazal of the Lost” was a cooperative child, Literati Magazine found the formatting of “Rewording” and “Titanoboa cerrejonensis” to be somewhat combative, so I’ll provide the texts as they should appear below:

Crocus in snow, purple spring flower.

Rewording

_____Your laugh is the child I never knew,
a promise kept nascent like a crocus
__________beneath a winter of detritus—

_____I never knew a crocus
could reword the daylight
__________with spring’s first mist.

_____How I’d wished the earth’s iron bellows
would recast the sky’s crimson artefacts
__________my lost will had smelted into slag,

_____until living through my bitterest nights
of seismic heartbeats weathered into stalagmites
__________finally tempered my breaths alive!

_____Now, their embers light my way
to the tenderness you well in your eyes:

_____Amassed like snowdrifts
the rising moon velvets in her white hush,
__________it is the naked quiet of us

rewording the daylight

_____into ash branches
__________lustered with dusk’s winter cloak;

_____a crocus sheltered in warm mulch
__________beneath the moonlit ice;

_____your laugh,
__________the child I never knew;

_____a promise kept
__________nascent in winter’s womb.

***

Titanoboa

Titanoboa cerrejonensis

_____When this restrictive skin
of self-pity refuses to slough off
_____& relinquish its groaning contents      my pain

sends me to my prehistoric depths—
_____sliding through my black     encapsulated veins
with questions of utility & necessity forking my tongue

_____into a device primed for maximal receptivity
scouring the fossil record
_____for evidence of fortitude       where I find you

fifty-eight million years ago
_____at the height of your dominion
in the Cerrejón Rain Forest     in what is now

an arid sweep of Northern Colombia

_____There     your legacy swims its secrets
into my stagnant heart     transforms my
_____mudstone back into supple blood

& re-designs me in your magnificent image
_____that I may waggle my muscled girth
_into a forty-eight-foot-long series of esses

_____effortlessly conveyed upon the swamp’s
vast network of currents     slip out
_____of my twisted     anthropic pelvis

& encumbering limbs     & vanquish
_____gravity’s inflammatory breath
_in the clutches of my cold     unshakable coils

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

 

Understory

Understory

Understory

Within these riparian depths, you press
through the ditch weed & grasses that shadow
the river in greens, trying to listen
for rustles of life where dead branches lie
gathered in bands along the banks like smoke
from summer’s fire that stripped the hills to stone.

This windless spring day voices strange like stone
breathes; its bufflehead-queer, top-heavy press
across the stream’s glassy gape damps the smoke
trees’ plea for breezy reprieve in shadow—
red buds purpling with their own blooms’ weight lie
flattened to their boughs, assuaged to listen

for a far-off storm’s faint peals. You listen
for a reason to turn from your cold, stone
descent—do the unearthed cedar roots lie
about the travails of erosion? Press
them for answers, you’ll get back the shadow
of your own doubts cleaved in moss thick as smoke.

Is silence its own story, or a smoke
screen for more forbidding fables? Listen
to the garter snake slip into shadow—
when its shift through the weeds turns up a stone
that no one sees, does it make a sound? Press
your palm against a garbled trunk & lie

about the story your closed eyes see; lie
supine like tinder on a pyre until smoke
wafts from the ashes you become; or press
past the bank’s last thorny thicket & listen
for bitterns to make their water-gulped-stone
intentions known, as if your looming shadow

could spur their ardor. What is that shadow,
if not the sun’s scorn for your darkest lie?
No river embodies hope for the stone
waiting on Sisyphus to outrun smoke.
Hope is a myth the robins tell their hatchlings: Listen
at your own peril—for when the flames press

in, bearing tidings of shadow & smoke,
the first lie you listen to will make you
their stone shrine to the robins’ skyward press…

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Robin's Nest

“Understory” was published in Issue 13 (Fall 2019) of Panoply. Thank you to editors Jeff Santosuosso, Ryn Holmes, and Andrea Walker for selecting this piece.

Poem up at Electica!

My poem “Turkey Vulture” is live in Eclectica Magazine’s January/February 2020 issue as part of the journal’s recurring Word Poem Challenge feature. I’d like to thank poetry editor Evan Martin Richards for selecting this piece, and express my appreciation for Eclectica Magazine, in general, for being one of the longest-running online journals out there, and doing such great work to promote literature and literary kind!

Dilated

Dilated

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 & neon
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 murky (his brisk entrance at the climax
of my dilation     coupled with his expertly-executed clasp
of my hand     inspired my fleeting impression he’d been both)
& 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

because 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…    

I’ve gathered that the dark splotches must be
cranberries—however vainly their vague 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

“Dilated” was published by CatheXis Northwest Press in November 2018 (they seem to be having difficulties with their website). Thank you to editor C.M. Tollefson for accepting this piece!

Poem up at Panoply!

Understory

My poem, “Understory,” is now live in issue 13 of the fantabulous online journal, Panoply Literary Zine! Thank you to editors extraordinaire, Jeff, Ryn, and Andrea, for selecting this piece. I’ve begun the absolute pleasure of delving into the fresh and evocative writing contained in this issue, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’m honored to have my work appear among such impressive ranks.

Pre-Publication Order Link to Robert Okaji’s New Chapbook

Our favorite poet, Robert Okaji, is truly at his finest in this “luminous” collection! Order his must-read chapbook today!

O at the Edges

I have a bird box

The publication date for I Have a Bird to Whistle (7 Palinodes) is February 25, and Luminous Press is currently offering copies for $7.50, shipping included, to U.S. addresses, through the 24th. Unfortunately, Luminous doesn’t ship internationally, but I will take care of those orders myself.

Order link for U.S. shipping addresses.

Contact me at aBirdtoWhistle@yahoo.com for orders to be shipped outside the U.S.

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To the Dead White-Throated Sparrow

“To the Dead White-Throated Sparrow” appears in my new chapbook forthcoming in March from Main Street Rag: The Death’s-Head’s Testament<<Available here for pre-order purchase for the fantastic price of $6.50/copy! 

White-throated_Sparrow_Audubon
To the Dead White-Throated Sparrow

_____in my driveway:
Would you at least do me the courtesy
of an explanation?

What’s with your belly-mound-
cenotaph-arisen-from-the-stony-gloom
spiel?  And why

this exquisite bundle of yours,
with its still-tender russets
folded in the unbounded repose

of a napping cherub,
as if you didn’t believe
you were still reaching for the clouds?

_____I mean,
was your plump little belly’s
sky tribute supposed to un-stone the gloom

underfoot (as if
your heavenward-splayed
finger-knobs, all ruddy-bottomed

like a napping cherub,
never knew their very purpose
was reaching for the clouds)?

The spectacle of your tiny black
lids pressed shut in sudden,
brutal resignation to croaking

_____underfoot (even
consecrated by such skyward-clasping,
ruddy-bottomed branchlessness)

hardly passes for
transubstantiation…  Why package
a fully-intact cadaver’s senselessness in

the spectacle of black-faced
brutality’s sudden,
penitent resignation to permanent blindness

for stealing a glimpse
of the sun?  Besides, adaptive
hydrophobia á la iridescent feather-sheath

_____hardly passes for
transubstantiation…  Why package
a fully-intact cadaver’s senselessness in

this exquisite bundle of yours,
with its still-tender russets
folded in the unbounded repose

of a dead sun-god, as if iridescence
were designed expressly for
stealing a glimpse of the afterlife

in my driveway?
All right, buddy, just do me this one favor:
Spare me, would you?

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Napping Cherub

“To the Dead White-Throated Sparrow” was first published in slightly different form in  Underfoot Poetry. Thank you to editors Daniel Paul Marshall and Time Miller — both fabulous poets in their own right! — for selecting this piece. 

On Robert Okaji’s I Have a Bird to Whistle

i-have-a-bird-to-whistle-large

I had the great honor and privilege of previewing and writing the following blurb for the back cover of Robert Okaji’s newest chapbook, I Have a Bird to Whistle (Luminous Press):

In I Have a Bird to Whistle, Robert Okaji masterfully constructs a universe of incisively beautiful sensory observations, in which the poet lives at the crux—owns and revels in the “life energy” of the “liminal”—between “unshuttered” stimuli and the “concealed” truth of existence. Here, where every ray of light shed on an otherwise “transitory” moment celebrates the gift of consciousness, and every deviation from expectation substantiates the self-actualizing force of human will, the language of poetry—of colors, sounds, and symbols—circumscribes our very being, as it drives our search for meaning. As nuanced as they are bold and delectable, these poems are utterly human, and utterly divine!

– Stephanie L. Harper, author of This Being Done and The Death’s-Head’s Testament.

In short, this is a reading experience like no other, that you simply don’t want to miss!

U.S. Residents can purchase I Have a Bird to Whistle HERE for the fantastic price of $7.50/copy, shipping included. Non-U.S. purchasers can order directly from Robert by emailing aBirdtoWhistle@yahoo.com.

Live Feed from the SW Florida Eagle Cam

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Live Feed from the SW Florida Eagle Cam
For E9, Born December 31, 2016

1.

Everything
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

2.

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

3.

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!