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Poetry Winter 2014    fiction    all issues


Debbra Palmer
Bake Sale
& other poems

Ann V. DeVilbiss
Far Away, Like a Mirror
& other poems

Michael Fleming
On the Bus
& other poems

Harold Schumacher
Dying To Say It
& other poems

Heather Erin Herbert
Georgia’s Advent
& other poems

Sharron Singleton
Sonnet for Small Rip-Rap
& other poems

Bryce Emley
College Beer
& other poems

Harry Bauld
On a Napkin
& other poems

George Mathon
Do You See Me Waving?
& other poems

Mariana Weisler
Soft Soap and Wishful Thinking
& other poems

Michael Kramer
Nighthawks, Kaua’i
& other poems

Jill Murphy
& other poems

Cassandra Sanborn
& other poems

Kendall Grant
Winter Love Note
& other poems

Donna French McArdle
White Blossoms at Night
& other poems

Tom Freeman
On Foot, Joliet, Illinois
& other poems

George Longenecker
& other poems

Kimberly Sailor
The Bitter Daughter
& other poems

Rebecca Irene
& other poems

Savannah Grant
And Not As Shame
& other poems

Michael Hugh Lythgoe
Titian Left No Paper Trail
& other poems

Martin Conte
We’re Not There
& other poems

A. Sgroi
Sore Soles
& other poems

Miguel Coronado
& other poems

Franklin Zawacki
Experience Before Memory
& other poems

Tracy Pitts
& other poems

Rachel A. Girty
& other poems

Ryan Flores
Language Without Lies
& other poems

Margie Curcio
& other poems

Stephanie L. Harper
Painted Chickens
& other poems

Nicholas Petrone
Running Out of Space
& other poems

Danielle C. Robinson
A Taste of Family Business
& other poems

Meghan Kemp-Gee
A Rhyme Scheme
& other poems

Tania Brown
On Weeknights
& other poems

James Ph. Kotsybar
& other poems

Matthew Scampoli
Paddle Ball
& other poems

Jamie Ross
Not Exactly
& other poems

Writer's Site

Stephanie L. Harper

Painted Chickens

Twenty years ago

I received a birthday gift

from a close college buddy-slash-sometime lover

(What on earth were we thinking?).

Back then, our past was already in the past

and twenty-four was already not young.

He gave me a coffee mug

covered in chickens—

yes, painted chickens—

three plump specimens posed around the outside,

and one that looks like an index finger

with an eye, a comb, a beak and a wattle,

slapped onto the bottom.

How, I can’t fathom,

but my friend knew that those chickens

with their orange-red, expressionistic bodies

would be a boat-floater for me—

                                             the one time I had slept with him

                                             had been an epic shipwreck,

     with a silent drive to the airport in its wake;

     on the way, we choked down pancakes,

     and I stifled sobs in my coffee,

     averting my eyes

     from the helpless horror in his.

     I then flew off into the wild, wide sky,

     bewildered, drowning.

Somehow, for years to come,

his southern gentlemanly charms

still served to allure:

he kept his promise to write

and took pains to catalogue for me

the details of his worldly escapades

and various, accompanying sexual conquests,

always making sure to emphasize

the ways in which they were hot for him,

so as to prove those trysts’ relative rightness.

Then, years later, for my birthday,

came, unexplainably gratifyingly,

the chicken cup.

     Still burning hot

     and feathered in their chili-pepper red,

     royal purple and verdant green cloaks,

     my static and impossibly happy

     aphrodisiac chickens

     blush like lovers on a Grecian urn;

          clucking, urgent.

My southern gent,

now so long ago flown from this callous coop,

wooed another and had his own brood,

as, in due course, did I,

but the mug, no worse for wear, remains

a spectacular feature—

like a bright birthday piñata

     (with its promise of sweet reward)—

of my sacred morning ritual.

These chickens,

     still ecstatically surprised,

     letting out unabashed, open-beaked caterwauls,

adorn my most aged and prized coffee mug;

     a vessel, perfectly-sized,

     it cups its contents so adoringly,


     like an egg enveloping its cache of gold,

as I take privileged sips.

The big chicken on the left

might actually be a rooster

and that one on the bottom,

a middle finger.

The Artifice of Death

In Memory of My Beloved Friend, JPM

Before you came to my dreams,

I had believed your self-hatred

precluded love.

Had you actually known in life

that you could still create bonds

from the beyond?

The brief words you left behind

in the blackness of a vacuum

were vengeful, frozen reminders

that everyone and everything

had failed you.

You took your sun from the world

and returned to the ancestral night,

where all artifacts of mortality,

like splintered clay idols,

are pieced together from the dawn of time

and placed carefully on exhibit.

The Curator catalogues young deaths like yours

among those who died cynical and regretful in old age.

Did you suppose you’d be exempt

from an eternity of the sorrow

you left for those you’d claimed to love?

Did you somehow know that I

would preserve your warmth

in the ornate museum of my dreams?

How did you know where to find me, waiting

for you in the shadows of dusk?

I waited in an endless gallery,

lost within marble halls, gilding and

minute faces carved into tiny,

polished soapstone figurines.

Among the lapis lazuli

likenesses of Osiris and Anubis, I waited,

grew tired, and rested my head

against a marble portico

of a room that led to forgotten souls

drifting in everlasting twilight.

Would my deliberate remembering

resurrect a vestige of you

from the static crypt?

You finally came to me

as the evening sun

filtering in through a skylight,

and gently brushed my cheek as I dozed.

That warm gesture was the same,

entirely benevolent force

which I had once known as you in life.

It was you who had once rendered

out of the vague concept of me

a solid silhouette

that still cuts a dry island

into the murky ocean of living death

and stands against the firmament,

a testament.

Your kiss had gifted me

a quickening, a start, a far-off end,

a will, an enthusiasm to live,

a reassurance that every new

dawning is possible, because I know

you are the same, boundless heart

that once evinced such light.

Though I still believe when you left

you were resolved to your semblances

of self-loathing and violent whim,

I won’t presume to condemn

the rent apart, toppled effigy

of who you once were to me

and who you became

lying in slabs;

blame doesn’t mend brokenness—

In forgiveness, death becomes artifice.

In my dreams, these symbols of non-life

are subsumed by time

and life and death become interchangeable.

Aren’t we all relics to be exhumed

and polished to flawlessness?

Though I conjure

these burnished, ghostly cyphers of your being,

they are no less solid, no less substantial,

than my own, chiseled breath;

you are surely no less precious to me

sequestered now

behind protective glass.

I Am Alabaster

I am alabaster, polished, translucent—

and I am ashes, tamped in hollows,

crushed between the breath of the living and the souls of the dead.

No one will tell me if I will survive.

As the blush of dawn unfurls over dunes

and seagulls soar on ocean thermals,

I break apart and scatter in the wind,

losing the border where everything else ends

and I begin.

Lighter than air, a cloud of me rises up

to speak to the hawk perched on a streetlamp

and tells her I am fine, because I don’t know how to talk

about not being fine—

besides, I am flying . . .

I want to be the best version of myself,

the beautiful one,

carved in lucent crystal and buffed to a shine,

so that my face will reflect your eyes,

which will be mine, crying,

because you have recognized the truth of me.

Specters of what was and what is

are ground into fine, dark cinders

amassing as shadows

beneath my alabaster feet,

while my crimson heart

yet thrums

with faith                     in what will be.

If I Saw Aidan Turner
Walking Down the Street . . .

If I saw Aidan Turner walking down the street,

I would not stop to contemplate the earth beneath . . .

I would not for a second consider that I

was already in junior high when he was born,

or that my own daughter is now the age I was

when that brand new star-to-be emerged from the womb,

replete with a tuft of black curls, which I can’t help

but to surmise. My daughter views him in his full

adult glory—deep voice, dark eyes, just enough scruff

to pass as a vampire or Middle Earth heart-throb,

cloaked in black leather and adorable Irish

cadences wrapped about him like a lucky cloud.

My daughter is certain that she could reach him first—

fully trusting in her youthful abilities,

and in my usual habit to step aside

in favor of promoting her self-assurance.

I have not been tough enough on her in some ways—

for instance, I have not gone for a hard tackle,

stripping her of a ball at foot in one quick breath,

nor have I generally used my advantage

of momentum in everyday foot-races:

usually, I would feign a fall to foster

her sense of imperviousness to ill fortune;

in most cases, I would give her a head-start, but

if I saw Aidan Turner walking down the street,

I would at once utterly forget her youthful

sighs, her earnest blushing, her sweet, redolent gaze

transfixed in goofy stupefaction, innocent

through and through—the beauty of watching her feel

herself becoming a woman (through watching him

make love to cameras in a perfect balance

of feigned humility and stunning sex-appeal)

would extinguish in less than a blink of an eye.

The frightful scene that would ensue would estrange us,

my daughter and me, for a lifetime and a day—

such would be the nature of the abject horror

my actions would exact upon her fragile mien:

she would learn for certain that determination

does, in fact, pay handsomely . . . As for the handsome

Aidan Turner, hypothetically spotted

strutting blithely down the street by the likes of me—

the assault would surely mark a milestone for him.

Stephanie L. Harper earned a BA in English and German from Grinnell College, and an MA in German literature from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She lives with her husband and two children in the Portland, OR, Metro area. Her work as a Writer and Home Schooling Parent has far-reaching extensions into social activism endeavors to promote a safe, just and vibrant world of possibility for future generations.

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