My poem “Though it is Written” is live at The Winnow Magazine! I greatly appreciate the care that The Winnow editing team took to pair my piece (scroll to page 20…) with such beautiful photography.
_____“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
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
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.
What you’ve got is only a touch of neurosis,
so don’t get your knickers all bunched in a twist—
such worries can give you a deep vein thrombosis!
Do you think there’s a prize for a self-diagnosis?
Stop looking for lesions; don’t palpate that cyst!
What you’re dealing with here’s just a bit of neurosis…
That smartphone is gonna cause spinal stenosis!
The search engine’s warning that if you persist,
you’ll likely wind up with a deep vein thrombosis!
You’d have known it by now if you had halitosis—
like a boil, it’s not something easily missed.
Better face it, you’ve got a small case of neurosis…
Now, what would possess you to google psychosis?
Let me guess… The voices submitted a list?
Are they helping you summon a deep vein thrombosis?
It’s not a news flash you’ve got some type of –osis—
but the poking of badgers is what gets them pissed…
So give it a rest! Embrace your neurosis!
Who needs all the fuss of a deep vein thrombosis?
(Just to be on the safe side, look up pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis…)
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
“Hypochondria Blues” was published in the anthology, The Larger Geometry, by peaceCENTERbooks. Thank you to editor d ellis phelps for including my work in this beautiful and inspired collection!
The peaceCENTER, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in San Antonio, Texas, supports the learning of peace through prayer and education; and supports the demonstration of peace through nonviolent actions and community. All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to benefit the peaceCENTER.
I can’t begin to express how deeply soul-nurturing it is for me to collaborate with such an extraordinarily generous and brilliant man and poet as Robert Okaji!
Dead Rose at 5 Points Local
(A collaborative poem written with Stephanie L. Harper)
Having plucked the disheveled
petals from the core,
for the dead to speak
of last week’s sweetness—
of damp upholstery
and worn-out shoes,
of locked chests
and the faint honey
of unrealized hope.
I twist the stem;
I quarter the seeds and
blemish the plate.
Which north rings true?
bridge reveals the lost
Our ice cubes clink
no answers, as the essences
of hibiscus, lavender,
and mint slip over my tongue,
concealing the cool
tang of her demurring
But when she says whisper,
touching her lips
with an index finger,
I hear distant trains
baying like wolves,
and smell the char of nights
trailing the undiminished
river, its waters flowing
in every possible
* * *
“Dead Rose at 5 Points Local” first appeared in
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The inimitably brilliant, insightful, and sensitive Daniel Paul Marshall has written a gorgeous review of my new chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament! Please take a look, and consider pre-ordering a copy for just $6.50 each!
The Death’s Head’s
continues on from Stephanie’s previous book This
Being Done & fortunate for us Stephanie is in the present progressive,
hammering out the dimensions of poems. The poems here continue to wade in the
difficulties of womanhood, family, child-rearing, love, life, memory &
is wakeful invention, an intellectual alacrity, sure-footedness even on the
tremulous ground of the heart in the track of each advancing line. Something
common-place, is elevated to heightened importance if only for it being what it
is: a potential for articulation & loving.
the morbidity of the title, I hope (well-founded on the verve of being a
life-bringer & cultivator, which Stephanie wears unashamedly on her sleeve)
that Stephanie isn’t concerned as Roy Fisher expresses in Poplars that“I think I
am afraid of becoming a cemetery of performance.” Stephanie’s performance is to
Stephanie sets off from a harbour in…
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My poem, “In Praise of Reason,” has been published in Panoply’s themed (“untamed”) and first-ever contest issue! I’m thrilled to have my poem appear with Robert Okaji’s contest-winning effort, and I’m grateful to editors Jeff, Ryn, and Andrea for selecting my work!
From the Seed
I’m caught in a quagmire
of dirty dishes, dog-hair-
strewn & stained floors,
& generally ineffectual
functions of utility, where
the minutes are consumed,
one after the other, by my
heart’s double-time ticking
moving time backward. This
body frozen in the here & now
is not the same me as all the atoms
I am, retracing their steps to find
the self I was in that past life—
the one who recognized
younger-you from a photo—
whose every cell sears me
with lightning, as wildfire smoke
wells up like a tidal wave from
the seed of being & time,
exclaiming, He’s the One!
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
Sometimes, maybe once in a lifetime, a poem changes your life for the better… Robert Okaji’s “Letter to Harper…” was that poem for me!
Letter to Harper from Halfway to the Horizon
Dear Stephanie: No one connects here, and no matter
how resolutely we trudge forward, ignoring spinal fusions
and attacking hearts, the line skips lightly ahead, mocking us,
I think, in that way only the ineffable may claim. Looking
out, I see a lone wren, clouds filtering the stars, and strands
of barbed wire looped like question marks around cedar
stumps, punctuating the day’s greeting. No answers there,
only more inquiries blanching under the sun. But this
is my febrile landscape, not your lush green headed by
gray. Nothing matters, or, everything’s imperative.
In this gnarled season I can’t tell which, although
the vulture ripping into a squirrel carcass on my
suburban front lawn tells me something ain’t quite
right. Full or empty, the glass is still a glass, despite
my propensity for seeking more, whether cava or beer
or yes, enlightenment. I…
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Reach for me, for I am
not made of this
fleshy shell; I am deeper.
Reach to the beyond-bone of me,
to the warm & ancient
dark of me.
Find where all my unsaying
resides & swells nameless,
& with your tongue, teach me
to speak. Reach
into the buried of me, stoke
& survey the embers
of my death-preceded devouring,
score my borders,
& till my soil nitrogenous.
Then let me be a sieve for your waters,
& for the salt of your deep,
the belly of hope.
STEPHANIE L. HARPER