Things I Cannot Say

funny-dalai-lama-cartoon-birthday
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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Family Road Trip

Family Road Trip

Family Road Trip

As we cross from Idaho into Utah,
the speed limit increases to 80 MPH,
& the evening empties
itself of the day’s summer ire,
letting it bubble on the horizon,
like the burgeonings that grace
the faces of teenagers just emerged
from backseat oblivion

to find themselves
metamorphosed from neophytes
into sleek, lanky-limbed
molehill-monumentalization
experts overnight.

Somewhere between the relative
metropolises of Ogden & Salt Lake City,
we breeze past a little town
that sprouted in the morning
shadow of a mountain,
& is now
consummating its time-dilated version
of a storm-cloud’s single day & night;

& I think how this place must be
the torpor of teenagers incarnate—
tucked in its little bed, & brimming
with confoundedness—

mustering the elements
it will tower into a thing of splendor.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

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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

 

Imprisoned

lock-and-key
Imprisoned

Now is not the time
for my fettered    titanium lines—

no time for me to claim
I know a thing or two about life
as if I were anyone’s keeper…

A “suicidally depressed” convict doing life for murder
petitioned my psychotherapist friend to treat him:

& so it was that with all the detached generosity
a wife & mother of three could muster     she rendered
a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder
even as his icy eyes ignited in her a germ of lust
that razed every trace of her in a sudden flush

Now is really not the time for idle moralizing
about prisoners     or locks & keys     as if
there were any kind of justice in poetry

It’s not the time for tying up loose ends
saving pennies for rainy days     or chrysalizing
our wrinkly little walnut meats to pupate belief
in the virtue of counting the hours

Now     the dragon is awake
blinking in the daylight of withering dreams
wagging her head in a gnashing rage

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Imprisoned” was first published in issue IV of  Claudius Speaks in October 2017, and is included in my chapbook, This Being Done, released on July 6, 2018, and now available on Amazon.

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Tribute

boulder-stream
Tribute

No muse     per se     whispers
infusions into my burning ear
not that it would be in my nature

to entice some demigoddess to swell
with lust     hover about my head
& grace me with facility in the arts

such that I might woo hearts into believing
in my sanctity (as if I’d ever assent
to some covetous little bitch’s attempts

to trademark my own     voluptuous
intellect with her dousings of silvery
moonbeams & purple pixie dust)

which isn’t to say that no one ever garners my tribute
No     of course not     for there’s always been a certain monsieur: 
Arnos     namesake of the Neoliths’ river     to move     to flow

mounting pulse    to culminating flutter
his flux of rapture & cruelty
rising like a god in me

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Italy-Rome-Tiber-River-God-Sculpture

“Tribute” was published in the Fall 2017 edition of Harbinger Asylum. Thank you to editor Dustin Pickering and guest-editor Z. M. Wise for selecting this piece.

 

Miracle

Thank you, Lynne Burnette, for the way your “Miracle” has nourished my heart today.

Lynne Burnett

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Is it a miracle
that I found the worm in time—
having gone into my den much earlier
than usual, to turn the computer on—
and saw the dark, exhausted thread of its
body lying in the middle of a desert
of beige carpet, picked it up, barely moist, and
laid it outside on the wet grass, and watched
until it finally waved goodbye at one end,
easing itself into the darkness it knows?

Or is the miracle
that the annelid slid
through sealed doors and windows
to get inside my house in the first place,
that it became a finger pointing
from the Buddha’s hand,
laying at my feet its five paired hearts
and the power of intervention—
of life continued
or of death without comment?

Is there a day without its miracle,
for doesn’t one follow the other
because of a vast accordion of worms
playing now the…

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A New Poem Up at BONED!

I’m thrilled to share the news that my poem, “Rhapsody in Bone” — a bit of formal verse for the 21st century… — is featured at the wonderful web journal, BONED! I’m grateful to editor Nate Ragolia for giving my quirky piece inspired by an ancient Inuit myth such a lovely and fitting home.

“Rhapsody in Bone” appears in my new chapbook, This Being Done, available now from Finishing Line Press. Orders will ship in June 2018.