Briefing from the Sunday Review Board

Illustration by Cameren Harper
@CamHarpArt

Briefing from the Sunday Review Board

_____“Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world,
_____but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” – Romans 12:2 (NIV)
 
my dear friends     i give thanks whenever i remember you
performing the Sunday liturgy in your private domiciles
as you fritter the late-winter daylight     heads bowed
to the gardens you cultivate in solitude     in which the holy grapes
of indolence germinate & swell into such harvests as only a protracted
back surgery recovery may ferment into sacred     existential wine

imbibe     i pray     & rejoice in your propitious
proximity to those who are sanctified:

Blessed be the Teenagers

__________greasified & bespectacled
though they be     for lolling with you on the couch
to watch an “old” movie from two thousand & three
for getting most of the cheesy references to last century
& even laughing aloud (albeit dubiously)     as you’ve
been all the while vaunting the previous night’s travesty
of red flannel covered in Mickey Mouse heads
purple soccer shorts     & magenta knee-high socks
_____& for not only seeming not to mind your ensemble
but also refraining from being put out by the three-inch-
long grey whisker sticking bolt straight out of your temple
from whence it had migrated     undiscovered     until crossing
the evidentiary vista’s periphery

Blessed be the Husband
 
__________for disarming your gesticulating
dismay with his velvety quip     “It’s actually white”
which he punctuates with an ironic kiss     before slipping
out the door like the Count of Monte Cristo to grab
a late     take-out lunch called “linner”    thusly
exercising his seasoned prowess as a nuclear engineer
who (having remained at all times cognizant of the breeder
reactor’s categorical purpose) has managed the containment
area around these billions of atoms your half-life needed
to split in provisioning wholeness for your progeny—

_____namely     your exquisite boy     who took off
at birth on a trajectory through the complex system
of boons & hazards some call autism     which you try to follow
corkscrewing like a solid-fuel rocket that’s lost a fin mid-flight
_____& your willful-sweet girl     whose arrival
from the spacetime continuum came sooner than expected
replete with congenital array of warp-drive clairvoyance
an uncanny talent for art     & a heart anomaly requiring
multiple interventions that have left
__________distortions
rip-roaring in her vector field—

by stabilizing within his perimeter both your incendiary
preoccupation with fissile potential     & its eventual fallout
(a. k. a. forty-something)     an advanced state of spiritual
decay known to impel the trade of a semi-functional uterus
for a pair of robust guinea pig siblings     who     in all likelihood
will outlive god

Blessed     surely     be the Son 
 
__________for being but seventeen
yet somehow finding his way     unprompted
to the shower no later than three pee em
_____& for his gorgeous baritone honed by years
of lessons now forsaken for countertenor arias
redolent of a derailed train

O     Blessed     indeed     be the Daughter

__________for the whiling away
of so many precious hours closed up in her bedroom
to conduct her assays of fan tributes on YouTube
_____& for the eternities of wringing crusades waged
on your universe trussed in her small     perfect hands

Amen!

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Briefing from the Sunday Review Board” appears in my chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament (<< click link for poem samples, commentary, and ordering information).  I’ve decided once and for all to retire it from the cyberspace slush pile, and to give it the loving home it deserves, here, in the arms of the WordPress poetry community.
❤ -SLH

What a Patriot Dreams

Starlight 03
What a Patriot Dreams

I saw the flags come down—
their masts falling like the trees
flattened by shockwaves
in those clips of old footage
from military nuclear bomb tests,
spliced into high school history documentaries.

They weren’t projected celluloid etchings
that teenagers confined to plastic chairs
could summarily cancel
with one hand motioning No
in the universal vernacular…

Caught in a wash of floodlights
on the indigo summer dusk,
the red-white-blue swaths crushed
in on themselves like torn parachutes,
& all vanished at once—deposed

by morning’s first, grainy insinuations
that breached the blinds’ periphery,
& accreted into a single, silent force
creeping along my bedroom walls,
as if to thwart illumination:

In this country of my own
birth & citizenship, I’ve, in turn,
given birth to two, precious children—

my riven heart’s two halves now trussed
in a spectacular fiasco of feathers & wax.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“What a Patriot Dreams” was first published (in slightly different form) in the November 2018 issue of CatheXis Northwest — thank you to editor C. M. Tollefson for selecting this piece for inclusion in your beautiful journal — and appears in my newest chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament, available NOW for pre-sale purchase for the fantastic price of $6.50 per copy (currently slated for release in April 2019)!

CLICK THIS LINK to my author page at Main Street Rag, which includes commentary on and sample poems from The Death’s-Head’s-Testament, to order your copy today, that the poetry gods shall smile on you for all the rest of your days!! 

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

GISHWHES 2017!

What on earth is GISHWHES, you might be asking yourselves? Well, in a word, it’s the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. It’s also a wonderfully creatively energizing/exhausting week of pushing your boundaries and spreading acts of kindness through your communities (which happens on a world-wide basis), while making mayhem/harmless mischief, and connections with like-minded others internationally. My kids and I participated in last week’s hunt for the 2nd year in a row, and I thought I’d share one of my more impressive accomplishments (well, I was impressed with myself!) with my beloved WordPress compatriots! This item for the hunt required me to compose and disseminate via Twitter (that is, 140 characters w/spaces at a time) a 2,000 word essay on the topic of “The Best Way to Get Pregnant for the 10th Time.” Considering the fact that I’m not all too well-versed on the subject, I think I pretty much knocked this one out of the park! By the way, 2,000 words is A LOT OF WORDS!

Anyway, I’d love to hear your impressions, whatever they may be, so here’s the link to the initial Tweet, to which I then replied the requisite number of times (I’m not telling you how many Tweets it took, because I don’t want to intimidate you out of reading it…) to make the whole thread accessible in its entirety via one link.

Enjoy!

Meet Cosplayer Cam Harper – And Her Pet Dalek!

My amazing, talented daughter (oh, and her Dalek…) is a featured cosplayer on Skatronixxx.com!

Hello, fellow Whovians!  I would like you to meet “mover, shaker, Dalek Maker” Cameren Harper – who along with her Dad, built Dalek Cas.  Being somewhat of a Doctor Who fan myself, when Cam and I crossed paths in the Twitterverse, and then when I saw some pictures of her Dalek on Deviant Art, I felt that she would be an awesome addition to our cosplay interviews.  And luckily enough, she agreed! 

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Autism Turned Inside Out

Autism Turned Inside Out *See text blown up below

I recently created this mandala, which ended up becoming a cathartic, stream-of-consciousness way for me to express some of my current feelings about raising a bright and talented son who has autism.

Autism, in Matthew’s case, seems to function as a buffer between the outside world and his experiences of himself as a living, breathing, emotional being in the world. To that effect, his demeanor can sometimes seem abrasive, or obstinate, and because he is so very intelligent (and often amazingly sweet!), these less-desirable social behaviors are perceived by others to be deliberately off-putting, when, in fact, BECAUSE of his AUTISM, he can become too overwhelmed by others’ social expectations of him to be able to respond “appropriately.”

These days, we are facing the exquisite challenges involved in supporting a teen with autism’s transition into adulthood. While many of our son’s peers are preparing for their futures in typical, socially-proscribed ways (i.e., applying to colleges, and beefing up their portfolios with “desirable” skills and experiences), Matthew does not seem to identify at all with the processes typically involved in this phase of life. BECAUSE of his AUTISM, the usual protocols that most youths growing up in a privileged society just seem to be able to “get” innately, are inscrutable to Matthew. Yet, as nothing about our son is typical, it certainly follows that his path to adulthood will be every bit as unique as he is. He will be breaking new ground in unprecedented ways, for sure, but he will also need a lot of support, patience, and tolerance from others as he makes his way.

At this juncture, it is really difficult for me as a parent to envision how things will all pan out. What I do know for sure, is that we will not be able to provide Matthew with the resources and support he needs and deserves alone. These are some of the questions I’ve been considering in my attempt to achieve a bit of clarity:

  • How do we help Matthew navigate this new territory in a way that will be empowering for him?
  • How do we help him to find his “community” (not necessarily only others with autism, but any caring, genuine, enlightened people out there who have the capacity to appreciate and make room for difference)?
  • Where are those places and circumstances, where Matthew’s ways of seeing and being in the world will not just be tolerated with sighs and rolling eyes; but will actually be embraced, because they are optimal for developing ideas and creating exciting possibilities for the world?
  • Who will be bold enough to step into Matthew’s world — to meet him there, in his element, where he thrives, feels grounded, and responds innately and effortlessly to the minute mysteries and details that most of us would never even perceive — instead of always requiring him to step out of that world that sustains him?
  • Who will be brave enough to push themselves far enough beyond their own comfort zones, to begin to comprehend the manifest discomfort my son endures in every waking moment of unavoidably inhabiting a world that has always denied him approval for who he is?
  • Who will love and accept him enough to become his tether to the world, to be the solid rock of “YES!” in a raging sea of “NO!”?
  • Who will help us build Matthew’s house on that rock?

Finally, I would like to express my deep gratitude for Matthew’s mentor and human being extraordinaire, Jenny Forrester, for teaching me the “mind map” exercise, which helped me to generate these questions.

~SLH, March 25, 2015

*Text from artwork above…

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

  • I knew there was something different about my baby boy the moment I gave birth to him almost seventeen years ago.
  • My world is richer, more complex, and more beautiful than I’d have ever known if not for seeing it through his eyes.
  • Matthew is so full of life and passion. He desires connections, and wants to share parts of himself with his family, his friends, and his pets, and he pours his soul into experiencing the earth’s beauty and majesty. He wants to love and be loved, but he feels alone. 😦
  • Matthew cannot understand the seemingly arbitrary rules, expectations, and emotions that neurotypicals take for granted. His brain is wired for different ways of thinking, observing, and feeling.
  • He realizes that others don’t care to understand his world — and he resents the double standard. Rightly so!
  • The pieces of Matthew’s world are shattered, scattered, compartmentalized, confused, and incongruous with what the world values as “normal” and “acceptable.” Misguided attempts to teach and integrate him have amounted to veiled threats of punitive consequences for refusal or inability to conform to a society that patently disapproves of his essential nature, and does not tolerate the outrage and frustration of those who must endure constant negation and neglect.
  • But my marvelous son is a survivor! He has not let the system utterly defeat him. He is learning, growing up, developing interests, and pursuing a tenable existence in a world that also needs to grow up!
  • Matthew is beautiful, brilliant, and precious. His differences are not faults. He deserves to be the perfect human being he is! It is not his duty to make himself “right” for the world. It is not his job to make the pieces fit. The WORLD better start making itself “right” for him!

Stephanie L. Harper, Proudest Mom in the World!

Meet Dalek Cas!

My husband, Lord Davros, has been hatching his evil plan to wipe out humankind… Eighteen months and 8,000 beers later, the fruit of his labor and passion has emerged in the form of this handsome devil:

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Can the love-child of a sentimentally artistic human and the coldly calculating super-genius and incarnation of evil thwart the demise of humanity with her limitless capacity for love?

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YOU BE THE JUDGE!

Portland Comic-Con January 24, 2015…