Feeling Squeezed at the Grocery Store I Conclude that the Propensity to Ignore Pain is Not Necessarily Virtuous, but Continue Shopping and Gather the Ingredients for Ham Fried Rice because That’s What I Cook When My Wife is Out-of-Town and I’m Not in the Mood for Italian, and Dammit I’m Not Ill, Merely a Little Inconvenienced, and Hey, in the 70’s I Played Football in Texas and When the Going Gets Tough…

emergency

Feeling Squeezed at the Grocery Store I Conclude that the Propensity to Ignore Pain is Not Necessarily Virtuous, but Continue Shopping and Gather the Ingredients for Ham Fried Rice because That’s What I Cook When My Wife is Out-of-Town and I’m Not in the Mood for Italian, and Dammit I’m Not Ill, Merely a Little Inconvenienced, and Hey, in the 70’s I Played Football in Texas, and When the Going Gets Tough…

I answer work email in the checkout line. Drive home, take two aspirin.
Place perishables in refrigerator.  Consider collapsing in bed.  Call wife.
Let in dog.  Drive to ER, park.  Provide phone numbers. Inhale. Exhale.
Repeat. Accept fate and morphine. Ask for lights and sirens, imagine the
seas parting. On the table, consider fissures and cold air, windows and
hagfish. Calculate arm-length, distance and time.  Expect one  insertion,
receive another. Dissonance  in perception, in reality.  Turn head when
asked.  Try reciting Kinnell’s  “The Bear.”  Try again, silently this  time.
Give up.  Attempt “Ozymandias.”  Think of dark highways. Wonder about
the femoral, when and how they’ll remove my jeans. Shiver uncontrollably.

football

The events in this poem took place six years ago. A lifetime ago. Life is good.

 

 

In Response to Nadia’s Misdirected Email, I State Exactly What I Am Looking For


tulip

 

In Response to Nadia’s Misdirected Email, I State Exactly What I Am Looking For

Balance. The ability to stand on one foot, on a tightrope, and juggle AR-15s,
ethics and dollar bills, while chanting the U.S. Constitution, in tongues.

Or good health.

Unweighted dreams.

A mechanism for disagreeing without needing to annihilate the opposition.

Doorways without doors, truth without fear.

A simple tulip.

One word to describe that instant between thought and pulled trigger,
intent and wish, the elevated pulse and sense of diminished space and time.

Sanctuary. Regret. Apology. Respect.

A tonic to the bitterness, a foil to the sweet.

Fitted sheets that fold. Uncommon sense.

Love in the abstract. More bacon. Smiles.

A closet that embraces everything you place in it. Everything.

The means of unfiring guns, of reversing wounds to undamaged flesh,
and rounds to their magazines, full and never used.

Self-organizing drawers. Due process.

Mothers who know only tears of joy.

One peaceful day.

Just one.

 

lights n sirens

 

This first appeared on the blog in July 2016. The poem was a response to an email asking a question intended for someone else: “What exactly are you looking for?”

 

Remains the Dark

Read this gorgeous poem by Stephanie L. Harper!

SLHARPERPOETRY

blackhole-1Remains the Dark

                            “How I wanted to be that sky—”  ~ Ocean Vuong

What is want, if not the forsaken
self’s inexorable reversion to self?

Just as your virtual arrival at the event
horizon must propagate only departure

this eternal leaving you actually are
is the mouth’s forgotten swallow,

is sustenance un-sought,
is your every trace & its antithesis

at once ceasing to mean.
Though emptied, you are no less

unfathomable: the black belly remains
the dark you’ll never grasp how to be.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Remains the Dark” was published in the Spring 2019 Showcase at The Zen Space, among a gorgeous collection of poetry, along with haiku and *tiny poems* by Lynne Burnett, the late Ron Evans (curated by Robert Okaji), and others, expertly edited by and adorned with the original black and white photography of the brilliant Daniel Paul Marshall.

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Letter to Schwaner from the Toad-Swallowed Moon

Letter to Schwaner from the Toad-Swallowed Moon

 

Dear Jeff: The glow here betrays our fantasies,

and between day and night and that uncertain

moment when neither holds sway, I have gained

a toehold on consequence. Who knew darkness

could shine so? Last November the surgeon

incised my belly six times but no light oozed

out and little crept in. I say little, but feel

a peculiar radiance emanating from my middle

which I can only attribute to the moon, although

the medical professionals would say it’s just

gas. But what do they know of Sheng-Yu or

Li Ho, of jade wheels and spilled cups? Last

night, to honor our marching sisters, I looked

to the cloud-filled sky and toasted them and

our ancestors, the poets and scapegoats, friends,

allies, compatriots, Five White and Jackboy,

shedding a solitary tear of joy in the process.

We won’t label the other tears, but I shudder

at our country’s current course and how the

bulging wallets of the rich continue swelling

at the expense of the poor and unhealthy,

the elderly, the unacknowledged, and those

living on the fringes, in colored shadows.

If we meet in person on some desolate, moon-

free road in a country that could never be,

how will I know you but from the ghosts and

smiles sparkling in the surrounding fog,

and the little voices singing their sad tune

of happiness into the night. This is where

we stand today, but tomorrow? Look for me

on that bench. I’ll be the full-bellied fellow,

the one with an eclipse leaking from his shirt

in a six-point pattern, two glasses in hand,

wine uncorked, ready for reptiles and politicians,

mirth and causation and good conversation

in brightness or tenebrous calm, whichever

needs replenishing more. But bring another

bottle. Or two. Talking makes me thirsty. Bob.

 

 

* * *

My poem “Letter to Schwaner from the Toad-Swallowed Moon” was first published at The Hamilton Stone Review in October 2017. Much gratitude to editor Roger Mitchell for taking this piece.

 

The Neurotic Dreams September in April

 

The Neurotic Dreams September in April


Already I have become the beginning of a partial ghost, sleeping the summer
sleep in winter, choosing night over breakfast and the ritual of dousing lights.
This much I know: the moon returns each month, and tonight you lie awake
in a bed across the river, in a house with sixteen windows and a cold oven,
where your true name hides under the floorboard behind the pantry door.

*

Differences season our days — from flowers to snow, root to nectar — take
one and the other lessens in its own sight. One day I’ll overcome this longing
for things and will be complete in what I own, living my life beyond the page,
past the white space and dead letters. When I mention hearts, I mean that
muscle lodged in my chest. Genetics, not romance. Tissue. Arteries, veins.

*

Dark cars on the street. Cattle grazing in the damp pasture. The liquor store
sign glaring “CLOSED.” Separate yet included, we observed these scenes but
assigned them to the periphery, grounded in our own closed frames. In a
different time I would transcend my nature and strive to withstand yours.
Look. That star, the fog silhouetting the tombstones. A bobbing light.

*

Love is a gray morning, a steel-toed shoe or coating of black ice; nothing you
do will repeal its treachery. There, on my stone porch, I will inhale the smoke
of a thousand burned photographs. The sun will descend but you won’t share
it, and I’ll no longer hum your tune. When I rise no one sees. Or everyone
stares. Imagine that great cow of a moon lowing through the night.

 

“The Neurotic Dreams September in April” was published in deLuge in December 2016, and was written during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge. Many thanks to artist extraordinaire Ron Throop for sponsoring and providing the title.

 

Maps

 

Maps

If we fold the map just so, the journey’s path
shrinks considerably. Sacramento enters the Hudson
Valley, Toronto meets Santa Fe, and Lee County,
Mississippi merges with Tupelo, Texas, joining music
to fruitcakes in a celebratory feast.  Stroll down one
road and find a lost car. Exit a theater to enter bliss
or a good bar with craft beer on tap, where no one
discusses mileage and you may eavesdrop on
conversations about ancient nautical battles, the
history of chili, and radiation. Unfold the map
twice to find yourself in Swamp Angel, Kansas,
named after a Civil War field gun and not a spiritual
being, and wander to the next intersection near
Barstow, where Joshua trees tickle the sky’s belly
and I ate the best chili dog in my young life’s
experience in 1968. Look to the edges, where the
best places crowd and nowhere lives in a corner.
Jump from Busan to Venice, drive to Perth and
beyond. Slowly crease the page. Do this again.
Point blindly. There. Your destination waits.

 

 

My poem “Maps” iwas publishedin February 2019 at Riggwelter. Thank you, Amy Kinsman, for taking this piece, which was originally drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge. I owe its existence to Ken Gierke, who sponsored the poem and provided the title (which I changed) that sparked this piece.