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! 

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