Hope Springs Eternal & So Does Willie Nelson

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Hope Springs Eternal & So Does Willie Nelson

Posted in honor of his 88th birthday!

Another death hoax? Gee, how original…
You folks ain’t fickle—guess I’ll give ya points
fer grit if not fer gumption. I’ve rolled joints
my friends, far stiffer than my tricky ankle,
imbibed red wine that’s older than yer gran’;
this here bandana holds more DNA
than most small countries on a holiday,
so keep your Internet! Just leave the bedpan
close, gas up the bus, & brace for twenty
more long years—well, give or take a decade.
The road’s a callin’, songs are in my head,
& my ol’ guitar plays as good as any;
there’s plenty weed to smoke & hair to braid:
So’s far as I can tell, I’m still not dead.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Of These and All

In celebration of World Poetry Day, I offer the following “syntactic echo” of the ineffably ingenious innovator of American Poetry, Walt Whitman. This poetic exercise was the brainchild of one Alessandra Lynch (i.e., I’m not entirely to blame…), instructor/facilitator of my spring 2021 Poetry Workshop in the Butler University MFA Program. 

Of These and All

  “And of these one and all I weave the song of myself”     ~ Walt Whitman, Song of myself 15

The left flesh-melon harbors a pool of sweat, the right flesh-melon harbors a
             pool of sweat,
The perimenopausal woman hot-flashes in the kitchen, the bemused son dons 
            wool slippers in the kitchen,
The second husband purchases electric socks for his perimenopausal wife and

             the ex-husband dissociates further from his ex-wife;
And these stoke my hankerings for donuts, and I make do with home-baked
             banana-nut muffins, 
And such as it is to amass five decades of knowledge, minus where I last left my phone,
             more or less I am in fact speaking on it,
And of these hot flashes, cantankerous joints, suddenly-uncloseable pants and all I 
             justify the lament of my middle-age…

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

Slippery Elm Literary Journal

Thanks for spreading the word, Bob! Slippery Elm LJ is truly top-notch!

O at the Edges

Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s 2019 issue is now live in the Slippery Elm online archives. My poem “This Oak” appeared in the print issue. If you have a chance, take a look at SELJ‘s offerings and/or consider submitting a few poems or entering the 2021 Slippery Elm Prize competition, now open for submissions. Many thanks to the journal’s editorial team, and especially EIC Dave Essinger, whose professionalism and personal kindness place SELJ at the top of the ladder in the world of literary journals.

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Though it is Written

Though it is Written 

that grace comes only by the way
of a primordial breath,
you know it to be no less
manifest for its taking of alternate routes,
as surely it finds you by the grasping-
of-an-implement way;

by the miraculous-
proximity-of-your-notebook-
with-Munch’s-iconic-Scream-
embossed-in-gold-on-the-cover-
to-your-waiting-for-this-morning’s-
nine-grained-slice-to-toast way;

as well as the letting-
your-hand-part-the-pages-
with-a-wake-of-coffee-stains-
because-you-opt-today-
to-imbibe-your-reflux-inducing-libation-
over-not-doing-so’s-throbbing-promise-
of-a-4:00-pm-migraine way;

not to mention the way
you habitually open
the blinds to another barely-lit dawn,
that grants you a glimpse of a Northern Flicker
scrabbling for purchase on the finch feeder
in a flapping blaze of belly, feathers,
& beaked seeds flung in ceremonious
presumption of some nearby female’s interest;

or the way you finally steal a breath—

which you need to steal
before your face re-stones itself
in the memory of those children
who were murdered
in yesterday’s mass shooting
in a Texas church,

for how else can you still hope?—

which delivers you to the way
your twelve-year-old Red Heeler
recruits what measure of her
brown-eyed vigilance she can muster
to shepherd this whole
bed-headed-faux-cheetah-printed-
heartsick-kitchen-calamity of you
past the counter-top-mounds of clutter,
through the ice age shadow
of your perdition,

& back to your beginning

when you were god,

& you were the word with god,

& you were the way.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Though it is Written” first appeared (in slightly different form) in The Winnow Magazine in November 2019. When I first wrote this piece, I couldn’t imagine a more agonizing circumstance than that which had brought about the particular tragedy weighing so heavily on me at the time. Then came the year 2020. Though I haven’t yet processed some of the things we’ve collectively experienced and emerged from (with varying degrees of scarring) enough to approach them poetically, what I do know is that the way I once devised for myself to keep finding hope still applies. 

Happy New Year 2021, my friends. I wish you all the ways that guide you in the year ahead to soul-sustaining beauty, light, and love.

 

Poem up at Moonchild Magazine!

Thank you to Editor in Chief Nadia Gerassimenko for nominating my poem “Risen” for a Pushcart Prize and including it in her tour de force (and fun and interactive!) compilation of poetry, short prose, visual art, and other mixed-media creations that is issue 7 of Moonchild Magazine!

View in landscape on a tablet or computer screen to appreciate the full experience.

Two Poems up at As Above So Below

My poems “Letter to Bowers from the Pandemic’s Underbelly” and “Alabaster” are now live in issue 6 of the lovely poetry journal, As Above So Below*. Many thanks to editor Bethany Rivers for including these pieces in such a fantastic collection of poems exploring “liminal spaces.” My poems appear on pages 19 and 55. Oh, and you’ll find four pieces by one of our mutual favorite poets, my husband, Robert Okaji, appearing on both the first and last pages, as well as in between!

*As Above So Below uses the publishing program, issuu, which renders as a beautiful e-magazine. View it on your computer in full-screen mode for the most user-friendly experience.

Poem up at Dust Poetry!

Thank you to editor Tara Wheeler for selecting my poem, “Trace,” for inclusion in Dust Poetry’s gorgeous Portrait issue. I’m particularly touched by Tara’s heartfelt message of appreciation for the poetry community in her editor’s note for this issue. It means a great deal to me as a contributor to know how much the editor values the artists’ voices her publication represents. This is what it’s all about!

I’m also especially excited by the timing of this issue’s release, because it just so happens that I will be reading this poem to my husband-to-be in our (socially distanced…) marriage ceremony TOMORROW, September 25, 2020!

Poem in Slippery Elm Literary Journal

baby goat

Answer

what element of the womb’s hush     little goat
_____groomed your aptitude to bleat so     sidling
your silken haunches up to me?

the way you press your distended
_____pintsized abdomen against my knee
& butt my outstretched hand
with your horn buds     begging for the sun-
ripe shoots along the far side of the fence
_____brings me to a robust belief in need…

o     bleating babe     no     I won’t leave
you before the cricket-song’s lull is in full swing
_____though     the dusk is rushing in
to replace afternoon’s haze
& twilight’s adamant touch would usher me to the dark
of another sleep sorrowing signifiers for insufficiency
_____like the moon     engorging
on the horizon     weeps to streak the soft hills silver…

last night     I dreamed a familiar dream
of my children when they were still young
in which there was never enough time     & never enough help
to rise     & feed so many all-too-realistic demands—
_____from the toting of two pajama’d bodies to the car
to park them in a driveway four houses away     at the crux
of their convoluted breakfast ritual     to rejections
_____in equal parts irrational & resolute     of the given
dream-morning’s cereal offerings—
_____& still hope
to make it anywhere on time     or at all…

what mother doesn’t dream of baby goats?

hear their cries in her mind as melodies & answer
in harmonic bleats?

hunger for sweet greens just out of reach?

bed down in warm hay beneath the starlight
bleeding through the barn’s worm-worn roof?

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Thank you to the SELJ Editing Team for selecting “Answer” as one of ten finalist in SELJ’s 2020 Poetry Prize and including it in the beautiful 2020 issue! I’m grateful to editor Dave Essinger for his impeccable professionalism, and for making me feel like a welcome member of the SELJ community!

Please peruse the Slippery Elm Literary Journal website, and perhaps purchase a copy of this fantastic journal to support Findlay University’s students in editing and publishing. Please also consider entering SELJ’s annual Deanna Tulley Multimedia Prize, now open for submissions!