Stephanie L. Harper

(Cento) Because the world is…

at the window in the hollow
of afternoon, I remember
how the earth felt in the mouth
of late-September: the dirt
kept breathing in ashen traces of dreams
deferred, and leaves eddied in the silent,
startled, icy, black language of the oak
snapped into a skygaze down
the imperturbable street
the wind’s cries whistling
over moth-breath flickers, the dead

accurate shapes of an exposed beehive
and the gray feather a thrush lost, the dark,
the moon cradle, the bear sleep, the seeds
planted,         muffled & promising.

Cento sources: Gwendolyn Brooks, R. Cassandra Bruner, Louise Glück, Tomaz Salamun, Galway Kinnell, Theodore Roethke, Evie Shockley, Adam Zagajewski (translated by Clare Cavanagh), Ross Gay, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, Joy Harjo

Stephanie L. Harper is an Oregonian transplant living in Indianapolis, Indiana. Harper is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and author of the chapbooks, This Being Done and The Death’s-Head’s Testament. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Slippery Elm Literary Journal, Whale Road Review, Panoply, Isacoustic*, Cathexis Northwest Press, Neologism Poetry, and elsewhere. Visit her online at

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Spring 2022