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! 

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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. 

Things I Cannot Say

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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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7 Poems Up at Underfoot Poetry!

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I’d like to express my gratitude to Tim Miller for hosting my quirky (some might say, “Harperesque”) poems (along with 2 collaborations with the one and only Robert Okaji!) at his fabulous blog, Underfoot Poetry (<< read them here); to editor Daniel Paul Marshall for his professionalism and the distinct pleasure it has been working with him and getting to know him and his work; and last but not least, to Robert Okaji, for his friendship, mentorship, collaboration, humor and sensitivity, and all-around beautiful, generous soul.

Prologue to My Birth

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Prologue to My Birth

This is neither a beginning
nor the prophecy of an ending
for beginnings & endings are lies
told to the once-living

it is not the exemplifying
of the aberrations the alchemists made
when they dethroned our Divine Queen
& transmuted her golden honey
into their iron pyrite philosophy
that left us to wither
inside our stunned husks

& so     this is the emptying
of our errant devotion
to the denial of bodily hunger

the sanctified unbelieving
in fairytales of heavenly salvation

& it is the vital refilling
of infants’ gaping mouths
with earthly fortitude

& here     now     is the weeping

for our birth-story     interred
with our long-dead mothers
who delivered us
& secured our velvety     aboriginal flesh
to their warm breasts—

the saline unleashing
to purify our Logos
our will to creation     our innate need
to manifest our god-selves

it is the recovering
of the Life that was severed from our psyches
when it was reduced to a Word
& uttered     bereft of melody—

the unrepressed singing
Artemis awake from her slumber
beneath her ruined Temple in Ephesus

at last     this is the extricating
of shame that made our tongues
untie us from our Mother’s holy earth
& swayed our ears to scorn her winged songs
even as she kept flying back to us
ever thick-limbed & fragrant
with nourishment from lavender blooms
solely that we should swell in our birthing cells
gorged on her royal jelly

This poem is my body
embryonic     translucent
distended with new hope

it is my luminous     black eyes
grown huge with their memory
of who I am

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

I’m thinking a lot today about the Divine Mother’s tireless devotion to her children. Happy Mother’s Day!

“Prologue to My Birth” was published in the collection,  International Poetry Month 2017, curated by Bonnie McClellan, and appears in my chapbook, This Being Done, available now for order from Finishing Line Press, scheduled to ship in June 2018.

Because I Said So

Because I Said So

Because I Said So

It’s been the same     old thing     year after year:
You mope around     all gloomy & convective
grow turbulent with variable shear
& bluster in that helical     invective
tone     All I want to do this spring     is spread
some bliss     inspire the bees to pollinate
warm up the sea     ensure the fish get fed
& coax some pinnipeds beach-ward to mate
but you just keep going all vertical-
like     sprouting vortices to spew about
debris!     Enough!     Go be a spectacle
in Tornado Alley!     Air that funnel out—
then find a nice     dark cloud     & settle down
to spawn some little terrors of your own…

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

This ditty was initially drafted during Tupelo Press’s May 2017 30/30 challenge. Thank you to friend and fellow poet, Clyde Long, for sponsoring this poem by ordering up a sonnet with the title, “Because I Said So,” which included the words, Tornado, beach, and bliss. The uniqueness of these requirements engendered a “pastoral” infused with the life-giving mayhem of spring, reminiscent of the air of triumph that the holy day of Easter embodies for so many.

May the miracles of this season, in all their incarnations, bless you and bolster you the whole year through!

Two Poems up at formidableWoman!

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Steph, poet, & Sydney, cattle dog extraordinaire!

Thank you so much to editor D. Ellis Phelps of Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press for hosting my poems, “Risen” and “Instead,” at formidableWoman, and for making me feel like a celebrity with her warm, insightful introduction!

Browse D.’s wonderful site here: Formidable Woman Sanctuary

Also, check out these terrific submissions opportunities here: Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press

“Instead” appears in my new chapbook, This Being Done, which will be available for pre-publication order TOMORROW, February 26, 2018, through April 27, 2018, at Finishing Line Press. I will post the link to order as soon as it goes live! Stay tuned for further announcements throughout the next couple of months!

Lupercalia

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Lupercalia

We probe into the distant    wintry
rest of white oaks & umbrella pines

moonlit with longing to thrill
in the feral     hesitant glints

that crack the black tourmaline cold
our eyes pursuing their penumbrae

until the brink of blindness    reaching
for our bloodline of lost

infidel selves     still bound
to the night’s crystalline tenors

As our illicit     newborn brothers were
abandoned to the Tiber     & delivered

keening for milk     to their mongrel lives
we     too     were borne by a savage river

to a mother    waiting on the Palatine shore

Capitoline Wolf

“Lupercalia” appears in my chapbook, This Being Done, which will be available for pre-sale purchase at Finishing Line Press, starting next week! Stay tuned for more announcements, including the order link on the Finishing Line Press website as soon as it goes live!

Alabaster

 

alabaster

I am a pink rose petal’s pale glow

black ash tamped in furrows
between the breath of the living
& the souls of the dead

the dawn’s blush unfurling over sand dunes

& seagulls soaring on thermal spirits
of iodine      salt     & shellfish

& sometimes     scattering in the wind
I can’t find where everything else ends     & I begin

Now rising from the morning hush     this cloud of me
speaks to the red tail hawk perched on a streetlamp
& tells her I’m fine     because I’m still not sure
how to talk about not being fine

I am an instar     trying to be
the clearest version of myself     to sculpt
a final skin of lucent crystal

so that when you come to see my cinder eyes
glinting diamond dust     I will be
the embered dusk bleeding into the sea

& you will know the truth of me

embered-dusk

A previous version of this poem first appeared in Sixfold magazine, winter 2014.

Dolphin Bodies

Dolphin Bodies

Mindful of my sandy feet skimming the sea-foam

I still try tiptoeing

the silvery flicker that parts the waters        because

unlike Christ’s canonized stroll upon the waves

my miracle

of wresting words loose from language

& setting their dolphin bodies forth

to swim into their unbound meanings

slides past

ensconced in a halo of mist

along with everything

every     last     pearlescent thing

that was lost to us

when we were emptied

& jettisoned into the sea

Convection

This thought experiment was inspired by the (impressively copious) weather satellite video loops of convection clouds popping into existence, which my son has been tracking down online and sharing with me… just another example of the uncountable, humbling insights into the natural world that I’m sure would have failed to blip on my radar, if not for his beautiful influence.

Stormy Sea

Yaroslav Gerzhedovich’s Stormy Sea, courtesy of Google Images

/kənˈvekSH(ə)n/ noun: the movement caused within a fluid by the tendency of hotter and therefore less dense material to rise, and colder, denser material to sink under the influence of gravity, which consequently results in transfer of heat.”

“In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate. The raging ocean that covered everything was engulfed in total darkness, and the Spirit of God was moving over the water. Then God commanded, ‘Let there be light’ (…)” Genesis 1:1-3

If     before the beginning
something had not yet appeared from
nothing
how did
nothing
manage     without lungs no less
to take in that convection of a god’s breath
that marked the beginning of creation
(particularly since before there was something
there surely wouldn’t have been things
such as gods or breathing)?

For that matter     out of what non-thing
was said sudden cloud burped
into the foggy     slate gray chaos
that hung     but didn’t
in a sky that couldn’t have been there     but was
ostensibly sandwiched tidily between
the turbulent     blue water
(we’ll address that later)
& the gauzier     brighter     frothier ether
that was not yet the air for the deities
who were not yet themselves?

& if     in the beginning
(as the story goes)
those twin neonates
formlessness & desolation
comprised everything
(however antithetical to actual substance)
that was spontaneously no longer
nothing

from where     for the love of sanity     did that ocean arise?

& why (never mind how)     pray tell     was it raging?

Of the untold passions
we might’ve presumed preceded
all extant matter & manner of cognizance
why did we resort to imagining rage?

Do we unknowingly float
upon the ocean’s foamy resentment
at the resonant indignity of not yet
being not
nothing
but still getting scapegoated for concealing
the primordially shapeless absences of
nothing
with its own nothingness
(unjustly condemned for the volition & malice
that nonbeing precluded it from possessing)
even as it     itself     was entirely concealed
in the total darkness we all know is really
just another way of saying a whole lot of
nothing?

To wit     aside from being a bit fishy
the story does lend itself rather poorly
to proper revelation
amounting     no doubt
to the non-existent body of water in question
being (or more precisely not-being)
rightfully fraught
that antiquity could do no better
than to liken it in myth—
in its purported (not to mention impossible)
shared subsistence with
nothing
before the beginning began—
to Phorcys     the weedy-bearded
progenitor of the gorgons…

Is it any wonder the artists should depict
this mystic transference of hot air
as the wisp of a ship
dissolving into the mist?

STEPHANIE L. HARPER