From the Seed

lightning bolt
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

germination

Letter to Harper from Halfway to the Horizon

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!

O at the Edges

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

 Reach_firelines

Reach 

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

 

Q&A with Poet Stephanie L. Harper (Part 1)

Thanks for this terrific honor, Bob!

O at the Edges

I’m pleased to offer this Q&A with poet Stephanie L. Harper:

You have a chapbook, This Being Done, coming out soon. Can you tell us something about it? From where did the title come?

 Yes, I’m thrilled that this debut of my work in book form is making its way into the world. The title, This Being Done, is an excerpt from my poem, “An Elegy for Birds & Bees,” which, the more I think about it, the more I believe is the crux of the collection. The poem came to me when I was profoundly depressed and drifting—feeling as if my childbearing days being behind me was somehow synonymous with not having (and not deserving to have) an identity or purpose for my own sake. The poem’s opening lines, “over & over in habitual drone /i repeat a phrase in my mind that no one knows i say…

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Brave

towering pine

Brave

Some things leave no room for misunderstanding,
like your climbs to the tops of towering pines,
and your belief that you can never cry.

At age five, you dream of a woman
with wings like a bat dressed all in black.
She swoops down, grabs you, pins you in her lap,
and while hitting you over and over, she’s whispering
that it will end when you stop struggling;
so you pretend to relax until her grip loosens
and then you fight to escape, but each time
her strength overwhelms you. It takes
several beatings before you realize
she is trying to help you, she is teaching you
how to be brave—
how to be so still
that you can let yourself have no feeling
when the scratchy hands are pressing into you,
like the night lets itself be swallowed by darkness.

An eight-year-old now, you’re standing
outside their locked bedroom door, waiting
for your mother to call to you
as he yells his nonsense, rips out drawers,
and slams the walls with his fists.
When something made of glass shatters
against the vanity, her cry of surprise
convinces you to call the police.
They come and go in a flash—
barely pausing to ruffle your hair
and chuckle
that it was all “just a misunderstanding”—
and they leave you there,
to keep being unseen.

For most of the schoolyear,
at age eleven, you are chronically ill:
the oozing, itching, gray-swollen chickenpox lesions
that make you potently untouchable,
lead to an infiltration of fevers, flooded lungs,
and inflamed tonsils and ears
that hold you prisoner from the inside,
but soon you come to know your captors
as the oddly loyal, untiring allies
who keep you warded at night, for months.
Your classmates are jealous, though,
that you still make passing grades
in your constant absence from school—
on the phone, they accuse you of faking,
and you can’t help the feeling, either,
that being sick really is a kind of cheating,
like getting something you want
without doing anything to earn it.

Mom is taking you to open a bank account
with your own passbook, though you’re just twelve
(her eyes are still swollen from crying yesterday),
so you can sign for the money you’ll need to get
yourself and your little brother to the airport
to fly to an uncle you barely know in New York,
if she either goes missing, or you find her dead,
because, as she’s confided to you—
and you have no reason not to believe it—
your father vowed to kill her.
For the next three years, then (she doesn’t know),
you skip lunch at school and save the money
to deposit into the “plane ticket” account.
No, she never gets murdered,
maybe even because you always keep watch,
like the kind of parent you’d want to be would,
even after your father finally moves out
during the same summer you get your tonsils
(and the disease they harbored) removed.

You’re now proving to be a picture of health
(though you bear the hunger of indignity, standing
in lines in the school gym for government hand-outs
of peanut butter, processed cheese and expired bread),
because you can run like no one else.
You are your soccer coach’s favorite, you believe,
because you are tough, and you work the hardest.
He makes a fuss over you like you are special,
takes you out for ice cream, has you come along
on fishing trips with his sons, and invites
you over for dinner, or to stay the night,
and you never consider he’ll expect you to repay him
for these casual, kind gestures, until
he’s suddenly always touching and hugging you
as if it is his right, and even though you make sure
only to be in public places with him,
in plain sight of your teammates’ parents,
you can’t discourage his lewd hovering,
or his propositions (which he thinks are charming)
for you to fuck him in the back of his van.
Somebody should be watching!
Somebody should be watching!
People are watching, but they only see
the things that have no need
for invisibility, like the crude posturing
of a man just being a man—

just someone who reserves
the Scouts’ clubhouse through Parks and Rec
for a “team meeting” that you feel obligated to attend;
someone who waits on a weekday evening
in a prefab aluminum building
with the lights dimmed
for a fifteen-year-old girl to enter alone,
while, at home, his own kids watch T.V.,
and his wife keeps his dinner warm.

Some things leave no room for misunderstanding—

like the lust throbbing in a man’s neck,
the presumption gleaming in his eyes,
and the fact that wrongs always pile upon wrongs
in the same way he now heaps this assault from behind,
with his thick hands fumbling for your breasts,
on top of his preposterous lie;

and so when he leans in with his belly
and his cock stiffens against the small of your back,
a scream gets trapped in your throat,
and you find yourself struggling wildly—
you elbow him hard in the ribs,
then rear up and ram your head into his chin,
and somehow stun him long enough
to get away—

you get away,
but leaving yourself there
unseen in the dark
doesn’t ever feel brave.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Brave” was first published in the TulipTree Publications, LLC 2016 anthology, Stories That Need to Be Told, which was a Colorado Book Award nominee. This poem also appears in my chapbook, This Being Done, NOW AVAILABLE for advance copy purchase at Finishing Line Press: RESERVE YOUR COPY HERE! – OR – use the form below as a guide for placing orders via post:

I’m deeply grateful for your orders! Thank you! Thank you! If you haven’t done so already, but are considering purchasing a copy, I ask that you please do so as soon as possible, as my print-run will be contingent upon the number of copies sold (for which there is a minimum quota) during the pre-publication period, which ends on April 27, 2018.

This Being Done_promo flyer

Alabaster

alabaster
Alabaster

I am a pink rose petal’s pale glow

black ash tamped in furrows
between the breaths of the living
& the droning 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

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Alabaster,” having first appeared in print in Sixfold magazine, winter 2014, is included in my new chapbook, This Being Done,

Harper_Stephanie_COV

available now at Finishing Line Press until April 27, 2018, for pre-publication order. The number of orders received during this period will determine the print-run scheduled for release on June 22, 2018. I’m grateful for your timely orders to help my work take flight! RESERVE YOUR COPY HERE TODAY!

Avium Morbum MMXVII

Chickadee

Photo by Cameren Harper, May 2017

This spring, it seemingly isn’t enough
that we’ve once again converted our porch
into a brood-rearing safe haven:
The once-adorable, amiable models
of avian parental prowess that have been
gracing us with their proximity
for years, are now a couple of flighty,
black & white fluff-balls of aggression. 

It’s like their little bird brains just
suddenly lost all sense of perspective—
their former bearing of healthy respect
toward us & our home has morphed
into a hostile face-off of assaults
on the front door window, dive-bombing
campaigns on the car in the driveway,
replete with poo, & kamikaze-style strikes
on their equally-fraught reflections
in the side-view mirror.

Why, my teen-aged son has been asking,
are the Chickadees being so stupid?

Of course, he already understands
that the answer to his question lies
in another question—which, come to think
of it, is THE question that everyone I know
has been asking for months, since nobody
is really surprised anymore when something
extreme, irrational, or just plain opposite-of-
intelligent happens—it’s as if the Bizarro World
episode of Seinfeld just started up again on its own,
& in its antithetical-T.V.-show fashion, decided
never to end—because, apparently, Nature, itself,
is being required to stretch its fabric all out of proportion
in effort to accommodate the unprecedentedly-dense
troposphere’s lambasting winds; but I find myself

ask-answering him, anyway, if only half-hopeful
that this serum synthesized of not-reasons might yet
suffice to inoculate him against such rife contagion:

Do they remind you of anyone?

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Avium Morbum MMXVII” was first drafted during the May 2017 Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge.

My new poetry chapbook, This Being Done, is available for advance copy purchase at Finishing Line Press from now until April 27, 2018. The number of orders received during this two-month pre-publication sales period will determine the size of the print run, which is currently scheduled for release on June 22, 2018. For more info CLICK HERE!

Two Poems up at formidableWoman!

Stephanie L Harper 1.JPG

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!

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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elegy (20171129)

Out of the ashes of heartbreak rises the phoenix of poetry. A brilliant piece by the illustrious Charles Payne on the recent loss of his pooch, Bodhi.

Words and Feathers

i pass through a cold spot
the paranormal experts
tell me this is a sign
some formerly corporeal being

is absorbing energy because
it wishes to communicate
or otherwise engage
with a world of mucus-leaking
sacks of wobbly flesh

who’s a good boy?

i don’t discourage the flickers
at the edge of my vision
the sound of jangled tags
the clacking of long toenails

happy to ride a bus
i’ll get off only when they make me
without a known destination

still

lately i gaze
out the window at a soft horizon
and feel the need for heaven

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