Returns

baby birds

 

Returns

What good is a rock
if the people fall, if truth

remains but no one
hears the long grass

rattle, and words
burst into flame

and gas, and life
poisons itself with

greed and the deficit
of compassion.

No body exists to bury.
I am trying to return

to a place of open
mouths, of nests and

groves left standing
despite their value

to the market. Which
pocket do I empty,

what song do I leave
unsung. Tomorrow

always becomes
yesterday, and today

flakes away into chilled
ash, carried over

rooftops and clouds,
never to be seen again.

 

gargoyle

“Returns” first appeared here in September 2017.

Osso Buco

file00029145808

 

Osso Buco

The reconciled, the residue of one’s
virtues displayed or absorbed

that within become the basis for
talk: furtive movements, the knife’s

gentle persuasion, wine
afforded the quality of enhancement.

We must preserve the truth, and other
disingenuous phrases, as if we may

admit our tastes only at great cost
to our politics and sense of being.

And fruitful loss – the reduction
sauce, or stock evaporated – which

attaches in dissipation
the grace of subtlety. To be more

with less. To be apparent yet
concealed. To be, in turn, aware.

 

file00092920180

“Osso Buco” first appeared here in March 2015.

 

Night

image

 

Night

Which particular wind curls through this dream of mountains
and books left opened? One that flicks pages or shreds
leaves while caressing your cheek? Or another, damp
and limp from envy, barely ruffling the night’s
curtain? In your sleep I am none of these,
relegated instead to unseen tremors or
the chill rasp of sparked surprise, a
tune laid across an unmade bed
in spring, its notes cluttering
the score. Or might I be the
stilled motion, eyes closed
and held taut, creased as
if worn by a pocket’s
rub and frequent
unfolding? This
is your clock.
Continue
the lie.

 

image

“Night” last appeared here in October 2016.

What a Patriot Dreams

I confess that I’ve ordered multiple copies of this book, because I know I’ll give some away. And the pre-publication sale price of $6.50 is nearly 50% off!

SLHARPERPOETRY

Starlight 03
What a Patriot Dreams

I saw the flags come down—
their masts falling like the trees
flattened by shockwaves
in those clips of old footage
from military nuclear bomb tests,
spliced into high school history documentaries.

They weren’t projected celluloid etchings
that teenagers confined to plastic chairs
could summarily cancel
with one hand motioning No
in the universal vernacular…

Caught in a wash of floodlights
on the indigo summer dusk,
the red-white-blue swaths crushed
in on themselves like torn parachutes,
& all vanished at once—deposed

by morning’s first, grainy insinuations
that breached the blinds’ periphery,
& accreted into a single, silent force
creeping along my bedroom walls,
as if to thwart illumination:

In this country of my own
birth & citizenship, I’ve, in turn,
given birth to two, precious children—

my riven heart’s two halves now trussed
in a spectacular fiasco of feathers & wax.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“What a…

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As Breath Defines Constriction

corona

 

As Breath Defines Constriction (Solar Wind)

The snake swallows itself, integrating the opposite. Or, illustrating the
nature of earthquakes, encourages conjecture.

Wind meditation. The practice of circling mountains, of emptying oneself.

Matter accelerating away from the sun. The prickly pear on the roof.

The Tendai monks of Hiei run 40 kilometers each day for 100 consecutive days.
Only then may they petition to complete the thousand-day trial.

Coronal mass ejections temporarily deform the Earth’s magnetic field.

I sweat while driving to the store for cold beer.

The heliopause is the point at which the solar wind’s strength is no longer
sufficient to push back the interstellar medium.

No matter its destination, a comet’s tail always points away from the sun.

At which point does one hear the sound of sunlight entering stone?

They must complete the thousand-day challenge or die. To this end,
each monk carries a knife and length of rope on his journey.

A map is simply paper. Solar wind, cord of death.

Stones in the path, quivering earth. Eyes focused ahead.

***

 

“As Breath Defines Constriction” is included in The Circumference of Other, my offering in the Silver Birch Press publication, IDES: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, available on Amazon.

 

stones

 

Gulf

gulf

Gulf
for M.V.

Which looms wider, its sky or water? The birds, here, too,
reconvene in greater streaks. This morning I stomped around
Paisano, examining the grasses and soil, the rocks and various
configurations of clouds, and listened to experts discuss
prescribed burns and how the land’s contours can determine
sequence and efficacy. The mockingbird whose territory
we occupy has disappeared. Perhaps he’s just moved on.
I heard a red-bellied woodpecker yesterday, but never saw it,
and of course the rattlers at the ranch are still underfoot, just
less apparent this time of year. I looked closely, as always,
but never spied one. What else did I miss? The rich people
on the bluffs bulldoze habitat, poison creeks and erect their
Italianate villas, caring not a whit for the breeding warblers
or the landscape, although they might pony up a few bucks
for an environmental charity if sucked-up to properly. Given
a choice between the two, I’d pick the snakes every time;
they don’t smile or offer spiked drinks and stories of their
conquests, and usually warn before striking. Even a minor
deity might take offense and crack open a new fault in the
earth between this place and theirs, widening it by inches
with each presumption, every falsehood, whether shaded
in unrelated facts or illogic, until that shifting space could
be spanned solely by a bridge planked with truth and good
manners, and, yes, by mutual consent. Looking back, I
find many examples of these bridges collapsing in utero,
but we keep trying. Your story of the gulf coast storm
reminded me of weeks spent on calm water, and seeing,
no matter where I turned, blue meeting blue, from horizon
to horizon, the sky never broken by bird or cloud, born
anew each day, always looking between, never down.

 

“Gulf” was published in West Texas Literary Review in March 2017.