Poem up at Panoply!

Understory

My poem, “Understory,” is now live in issue 13 of the fantabulous online journal, Panoply Literary Zine! Thank you to editors extraordinaire, Jeff, Ryn, and Andrea, for selecting this piece. I’ve begun the absolute pleasure of delving into the fresh and evocative writing contained in this issue, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’m honored to have my work appear among such impressive ranks.

Rhapsody in Bone

Rhapsody in Bone

Beneath the frozen fathoms of the sea,
a maiden’s body swells in rhapsody;
her father made her sustenance for fish
and creatures yet unseen by human eyes,
who feed until the carrion is spent.

The maiden’s bones roll over with the tide,
entwined with deep-sea coral colonies,
and where her eyes were, now are dwellings kept
by denizens who have no need of light
beneath the frozen fathoms of the sea.

Though water’s currents quell the dolphins’ calls,
the doleful cries her fecund corpse intones
uncoil the sodden hearts of others’ souls,
while hers, forsaken, flounders in the dark.
A maiden’s body belts a rhapsody,

because her father threw her from a cliff:
butt-hurt that she’d flat-out refused to stroke
his ego (teeny-peeny sack, he was,
of whims that changed as often as the winds),
her father made her sustenance for fish,

yet could not stop his daughter’s sunken bones
from breathing sirens’ cantos on the waves
and luring hunters to her icy grave—
that home to lonely spirits of the depths
and creatures yet unseen by human eyes!

A hunter plunks his line into the sea,
where deep below, a bony treasury
still bears the stench of murder’s milky dregs,
a tangy lunch for urchins clinging fast,
who feed until the carrion is spent.

Upon the swaying surf the hunter waits
with hero’s grit,’til suddenly, a lurch—
he’s hooked the skeleton woman’s rib! This catch
has heft suggesting banquets fit for kings,
who feed until the carrion is spent!

Oy veh! He hoists her bones onto his skiff
and shits his britches fearing he’s been cursed
by Death, herself, arisen from the depths—
her salt-worn bones a host for writhing eels,
and creatures yet unseen by human eyes!

Try as he may to toss her back, he finds
her long front teeth affixed—and can’t deny
this woman he’s revived deserves to live:
those naked, tangled limbs, her smooth, bald head…
Her father made her sustenance for fish,

yet could not stop his daughter’s sunken bones
from going viral with their exposés—
though water tries to quash the dolphins’ calls—
for songs of fuckhead fathers make us sick,
when maidens’ bodies swell in rhapsody!

Though many hunters know the songs of bones,
scarce few boast true cajones, fewer still
behold the face of Death with steadfast gaze,
and grow to love and keep all she became
beneath the frozen fathoms of the sea.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Rhapsody in Bone” was first published in May 2017, in editor Nate Ragolia’s awesome journal, Boned: A Collection of Skeletal Writings, and was subsequently included in my chapbook, This Being Done.

Concerning the Delay of My Self-Immolation

prometheus1994-elsierussell
Concerning the Delay of My Self-Immolation

“Ich kenne nichts Ärmeres
Unter der Sonn’, als euch Götter!
_______________~ J. W. von Goethe’s “Prometheus”

when i sacrifice myself
as a gift to my fellow humans
i promise it will be for nothing
so hackneyed as to protest
some hypoxic septuagenarian
hunched on a mountaintop
mistaking every garish tendril
to wisp from his head
for a well-honed lightning bolt

not that i imagine
there’s any portion of my no-longer-
combustible flesh i might set
upon the balance    that could be
tendered for passage to Elysium

but you can believe i’d pluck my own eyes
from their conceding sockets    send
the fabrics from my padded scaffold back
to China    & traipse forever    a blind
naked-as-a-mole-rat gnome in the garden of
unscented flowers    if the stygian prophecies
were to divine any semblance of purpose
in chaining my corpse to the cliff face

& though these desiccating seasons
have yet to assemble
me into fuel for Helios’ pyre
if ever my splitting spurs should cease
to cry out dragon’s blood

i will crescendo
my twilight’s fury on the horizon—

my flames will soar
like an eagle on a Titan’s breath

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Concerning the Delay of My Self-Immolation” made its debut appearance in Robert Penick’s fabulous literary journal, Ristau: A Journal of Being, in January 2019. It also appears in my new chapbook, The Death’s-Head’s Testament, scheduled for release in March 2019! Please check out sample poems and early praise for this collection on my Author Page at Main Street Rag, and consider purchasing a copy at the terrific limited-time discount of $6.50! 

I wish I had words to express how much your support of my work means to me. Please just enjoy the poems, and know that I’m immensely grateful!

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Legacy

Legacy

i’m no kind of Ishmael to expound
some great protagonist’s wayward saga,

& haven’t the slightest inkling of other

women’s misfortunes, nor do i know
if i’m even justified in such grief over a life
squandered on an endless vigil’s cries of
who sees me now?  & now?  & now?

who, besides this mirror i face,
knows my bulging litany of failures,
my spurious assumption of a character i detest?

i was born lacking the power
to reason my way out of this gravitational
force i’ve abhorred since youth, & which
now condemns me to lug about my globed
satellites—

to bear these adjuncts’ fleshy heft, as if I were
still umbilically moored to the gangway by my own
murdered albatross—

each a whale of white with its vacant eye
downcast like a faded damask rose.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

 

“Legacy” made its debut appearance in Underfoot Poetry, and is the opening poem of my forthcoming chapbook collection, The Death’s-Head’s Testament, scheduled for release from Main Street Rag in March 2019, and available for advance orders NOW at a substantial discount ($6.50 per copy!). Please consider purchasing a copy of my book (click link above), and/or sharing my author page with your online communities to help get the word out! I am forever grateful for all of your support of my work!

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__________cover photo by Matthew Harper

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

See the source image

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.