Psychedelic

Psychedelic 

because     suddenly     you see
the whole universe is yet to be
uncovered     you lift

the lid & add precisely one and a half
teaspoons of photons to the black vat
of atoms nattering themselves into a froth—

& because with the heat they generate
you could boil
an egg (such as     say
the calcium-bound     alimentary plasma
of an embryonic chicken
or even one of the kiln-fired variety
that you might decide to glaze
with a tie-dye motif from the invisible
light spectrum     cajoling it to appear
indiscriminate)—

the dense infinity of which tricks
your brain into believing the secret

of simmering
in a wood-smoke-redolent
reduction of souls
(the one that tastes like honey is your very own)
that makes you this cobalt curl of steam
finally climbing into the identity you’ve been
fancying for all eternity:

a heart thrumming crimson
trumpet-flowers
& indigo buntings
born knowing meaning
is forged in the vacuum
of a dragon’s breath

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Please take a moment to check out my author page at Main Street Rag for my newest chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament, scheduled for release in March 2019, and available now for advance orders at $6.50 per copy!

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Things I Cannot Say

funny-dalai-lama-cartoon-birthday
Things I Cannot Say

Even when you are a one-year-old jumping out of your crib
(you have no particular reason for jumping, but you do it,
& the thud you make that’s loud but doesn’t hurt,
wakes your father, the menacing resonance of whose
footsteps approaching your room overwhelms you with terror—
your own heartbeat surging in your head—which you catalogue
into your infant consciousness as a sense of mortal danger
you will run from for the rest of your life, though you have no
language to account for it yet), you already implicitly understand
that your fear is a thing you must never talk about out loud, for
the only way its malaise living in your veins could feel worse,
would be if the words you formulated & ascribed to its being
resulted in its summary negation.

___________________________________For the same, essential reason,
you still hardly believe the amazing thing that happened to you
one day, back when you were a burned-out Graduate Assistant
(who couldn’t have distinguished a metaphysical marvel from
her left elbow)—when, because your arms were overfull with books,
an orangutan puppet named Andreas, & his overripe, over-handled
banana, which you’d recruited to teach German reflexive verbs
to Undergrads, you decided to take the elevator back up from your
third floor classroom to your eighth floor office in Van Hise,
& discovered yourself being flanked for five flights by two
Tibetan Buddhist Monks in their maroon & saffron-yellow robes:
Geshe Sopa, whom you recognized from the Asian Studies Department
on the twelfth floor, & his brightly-smiling companion, none other than
His Holiness the Dalai Lama—even though you’ll never forget how
Andreas clasped his banana, while you summarily exited your body
on a silent wave of preternatural warmth, the mouth of the thing
you would never again inhabit fixing itself into a ridiculous grin.

For my part, I think it’s entirely possible that I’ve been a bodiless soul
since infancy, & also that I never did actually receive a new life from
the Dalai Lama in an elevator in Wisconsin, but I cannot say for certain.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Things I Cannot Say” was published in the Fall 2017 edition of Harbinger Asylum (thank you to editors Z.M. Wise and Dustin Pickering for selecting this piece), and appears in my forthcoming chapbook, The Death’s-Heads Testament, available NOW for preorder purchase (for only $6.50 per copy!) from Main Street Rag (scheduled for release in March 2019).

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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.

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Feeling Squeezed at the Grocery Store I Conclude that the Propensity to Ignore Pain is Not Necessarily Virtuous, but Continue Shopping and Gather the Ingredients for Ham Fried Rice because That’s What I Cook When My Wife is Out-of-Town and I’m Not in the Mood for Italian, and Dammit I’m Not Ill, Merely a Little Inconvenienced, and Hey, in the 70’s I Played Football in Texas and When the Going Gets Tough…

Human of extraordinary survival and dearest friend, poet Robert Okaji, gives me much to celebrate today! Happy 5th Anniversary! You rock! 💖

O at the Edges

emergency

Feeling Squeezed at the Grocery Store I Conclude that the Propensity to Ignore Pain is Not Necessarily Virtuous, but Continue Shopping and Gather the Ingredients for Ham Fried Rice because That’s What I Cook When My Wife is Out-of-Town and I’m Not in the Mood for Italian, and Dammit I’m Not Ill, Merely a Little Inconvenienced, and Hey, in the 70’s I Played Football in Texas, and When the Going Gets Tough…

I answer work email in the checkout line. Drive home, take two aspirin.
Place perishables in refrigerator.  Consider collapsing in bed.  Call wife.
Let in dog.  Drive to ER, park.  Provide phone numbers. Inhale. Exhale.
Repeat. Accept fate and morphine. Ask for lights and sirens, imagine the
seas parting. On the table, consider fissures and cold air, windows and
hagfish. Calculate arm-length, distance and time.  Expect one  insertion,
receive another. Dissonance  in perception, in reality.  Turn head when

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Stopping by Clothes with a White Fur Gifting

LuAnne Holder’s parody of Frost’s “Stopping by Woods…,” a piece after my own heart, has officially made my day! 🐈

Wind Rush

Star on Black2

Which cat did this, oh my who knows
This leaving fur upon my clothes
She did it while I was away
On my black dress she took repose

My cats are not ones to delay
To seek out nap spots black or grey
And leave white fur just to remind
Me that their love will never stray

So any clothes left out they’ll find
The dark ones are the grandest kind
To rest white bellies for contrast
This deed they think they’ve been assigned

If I don’t want to be aghast
I’ll hang my clothes and do it fast
This I’ve figured out at last
This I’ve figured out at last

I have always loved the poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, particularly its interesting rhyme scheme. Inspired by SLHARPERPOETRY’s clever rewrite of Lewis Carroll’s Jaberwokey as Trumplewokey, I decided to do a rewrite…

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On Seeing

Moose Lips!

“What we say we see says a lot about who we are.” – Ocean Vuong

“Why is no one ever looking when I use air quotes?”  – Matthew Harper

Sunspots through cloud-cover
Moose lips
Butterfly fuzz
Honey bees kissing lavender stalks
Spring breezes blowing cottonwood seeds into drifts 

Convection popcorning in the flame-blue east
Summer shimmering hayfield-rivers
Dust-devils whirling out of a midday calm
A dragonfly poised above a stagnant pond
its wings “wiggling—they don’t flap” 

The spider     like Godzilla’s more graceful cousin
terrorizing the webcam’s livestream
of pedestrians on a bridge over the Willamette
attended by the oblivious
broadcasts of a classical radio station 

A mother skunk trailed by three kits
emerging at midnight from the greenspace
across the street—their bottle-brush tails
going vertical    as my son    quivering
encroaches with his camera—
& erring on the side of sweet mercy     again 

A one & a half twisting layout somersault
from a trampoline—lights swirling in figure-eights
fifteen feet above the ground

Moose lips     & butterfly fuzz

The ease of every convoluted moment

The relative difficulty of ease

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Butterfly Fuzz 3

Photos by Matthew Harper 

 

Matthew in the Fountain

 

In the Fountain 1999

August 1999, age 14 months

In the spray’s scattering
of afternoon rays
           you pass before the sun
a toddling pointed-toe satellite
eclipsing all
but its faint red ghost

Summer haloes you in sun-white down
mottling the concrete’s cool glisten
like a memory from the womb

Watching the world swim into focus
in your smart brown eyes
           your round cheeks
flushing with the kisses of angels
showering from the sky          I realize
in a shutter’s split-second
                          I’ve traversed eternity

My child    you burst open my heart like the sun
bursts infinitely open each fountain drop

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

This poem appears in my chapbook, THIS BEING DONE, forthcoming with Finishing Line Press, someday (I’ve been hearing that they’re experiencing some delays…). The little cherub featured above, in one of the only decent photos I’ve ever taken in my life (in that the subject isn’t my own thumb, or some stranger’s butt), is my son, Matthew, who’s now 19 (oy!), and whose prowess as a photographer did not come from me. I’ve previously shared an example of his amazing work on the blog HERE.

Dilated

house finch

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      & shocking
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 relatively murky
(the simultaneity of his brisk entrance with the climax
of my dilation expertly flourished by his robust clasping of my
hand     had inspired my conjecture that he might’ve been both)
& you’d better believe 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
& 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…    
 
From its orange piquancy
I’ve gathered that the scone’s dark splotches must
be cranberries—however vainly their vaguely moist
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

It may not surprise you to learn that I wrote this poem in January 2017, while brooding over a certain sociopolitical debacle. This is its first exposure to the light of day…