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Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Harker’

Half Past Four on a Lurid August Day

May 8, 2013 4 comments

by Joseph Harker

Consider the insects: a pilgrimage of ants lays down
trails of blind devotion from their abdomens, leading from
their dry dirt-mound pyramid to the communion rail
around one fallen cicada tumbled on the sidewalk;

a steady stream zeroes in and circumambulates the great
grey-and-green body, inscrutable as the moon and just as
pockmarked with maria, the deep hue of an ivy leaf, dark little
stains of envy under its mashrabiya wings;

and they take their fill of that thumb-sized sacrifice
blown open, crawling with summer-bred soldiers who carry
this bounty back behind the terracotta pots and the garden
hose, crypto-pagans living right under the stoop;

here I am, sitting, watching, pineapple juice dripping
like manna from my chin, a sweet false prophecy they pause
to marvel at, before carrying on, ignoring the passing cars
ruffling their antennae with thick, inconstant air.


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Joseph Harker is the pseudonym of a linguist-poet living in New York, where the animals you see are usually six-legged and/or unwholesome. (Currently, though, he lives with a small and elderly cat.) His work has appeared in Clapboard House, Ganymede, Red Fez, and other publications both in print and online; you can also find him at his blog, Naming Constellations.

New York Bridges

March 20, 2012 6 comments

by Joseph Harker

(for Walt, with love)

Keep your great earthworm-tunnels,
Keep your black depths, O underground, and the rattling steam through the soil,
Keep your pools of rainwater and the curious rats, and your cross-legged dime musicians,
Keep the cables lining the dark and the empty platforms of a permanent night;
Give me the rooftops—give me wooden water towers and old parapets invisible behind their graffiti!
Give me interminable lights—give me rivers—give me youths and madmen hanging out the windows!
Let me see the city while I’m suspended from the sky—let me dangle from Christmas streamers and crow!
Give me air and light—give me the Bridges of New York!
Give me the D-train with its wide orange eye that gazes forever on the shape and sway of Coney Island!
(The mermaids and carnivaliers call from the beaches—they swim upstream against the current,
Some waving, some singing, up at us on the train; we follow from their good example.)
Give me the pinnacles of the Brooklyn in a salt-spray dawn!
O move for me! O an ecstatic life, full of chatter and lightning!
The life of the huckster, bag-man, pole-gripping poet for me!
The bikes on the Williamsburg! the Roosevelt towers for me! the J and the Q and their hot silver blood!
The metal mouths of trains opening and closing, swallowing and spitting we rail-addled dreamers;
Nothing but people coming and going, every element but the prison of clay,
New York bridges like veins, umbilicals, the tramped-out procession of stories,
The twenty-four-hour symphony of steel and cement (even in the lowest hour of the moon,)
New York bridges, pressed up in sharp relief to the heavens!
New York bridges forever carry me.


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Joseph Harker used to do melodramatic renditions of TV commercials as a kid, which turned into a career in college theatre, which went nowhere; so now he’s writing poetry instead. His work has appeared in qarrtsiluni, Assaracus, MediaVirus, and other fine publications; he has also just self-published his first chapbook, Greeks Bearing Gifts. He lives in New York, blogs at naming constellations, and wanders everywhere else.

Categories: Imitation Tags:

Odds and Ends

October 28, 2011 5 comments

by Joseph Harker

We are making a religion out of Small Things,
weaving significance from yarn and whiskers and wire.

These inkstains are our sacred books, telling stories
of the first kiss, of cat’s eye marbles and baby teeth.

Our pockets hold cowrie shells and birthday candles,
feathers to burn like incense for the mackerel sky.

We are finding the religion in Small Things
the luck in a penny from the year you were born,

the mystery in a drop of mercury sitting sly on the table,
the sanctity in a dandelion untouched and unblown.

Our amulets are rhinestones and peach pits.
Our reliquaries are hollows in the trees that gather water.

We are trading old religion for Small Things,
for they are everywhere and just as important, too.

They hold us together like a chain of paperclips,
and our prayers have dwindled into punctuation.

Thank us for the beauty in tea leaves and eyelids;
bury us in graves that have been measured out in inches.


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Joseph Harker has pretty much given up on organized religion in favor of the more personal, private kind. When not wandering between cities in the Northeast US, he works in the translation industry and writes poems whenever possible. His work has appeared in qarrtsiluni, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Ganymede, and other publications, but you can most easily find him at his blog, naming constallations.

Categories: Worship Tags:

Homeopathy for the Nation

February 22, 2010 3 comments

by Joseph Harker

Drops of foxglove and fish oil in the water supply.
A diet of artichoke and split garlic to keep the roadways clean,
and cups of jasmine green tea for conservation.

Zazen every morning for freedom from technological distraction,
and valerian to soothe the sensationalized brain. Plenty of
St. John’s Wort for the unemployment rate,
with a deep-tissue massage of the inner cities.
Tinctured rhino horn defusing the manias of the street.
Acupuncture needles at state-capital pressure points, smoldering
smudge stick of white sage against the corruption of officials.

Yarrow to detox the sluggish rivers of waste that run
the continental length and breadth of the body, but feverfew
and fresh ginger for the stagnation of industry.
Ginseng for the symptomatic economy.
Sweet sagewort to counter the pulse of that executive greed.

Chinese cinnamon to crack the glass ceiling of sexism,
yohimbe wine to blur the lines of hate, and a bit of skin color
blindness with fresh-squeezed juice of celandine.
Quartz crystal on the throat to cleanse tarnished historical karma.
Sagebrush to always be reminded of how we came
across those oceans, with star anise charms for luck.

Cold chamomile tea for systemic anxiety.
Artemisia the reawakening of a new and different Dream.
Comfrey and wolfberry to knit all the pieces
back together.


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Joseph Harker is the pseudonym of a foolish twentysomething, lately located on the East Coast of the US. He dreams more than he ought to, scribbles less than he wants to, and is a textbook Libra in just about every way. If you’d like to bother him, it’s best to visit his online demesne at naming constellations (but do mind your step).

Categories: Health Tags:

Abracadabra

December 23, 2009 7 comments

by Joseph Harker

Our father used to chop off his own fingers,
pull quarters from our ears or clap his hands
to conjure Jolly Ranchers out of thin air.

We were heirs to the secret knowledge: that our father
was better than the other dads, with a gleam in his eye
that suggested he knew Important Things.
We shrilled with joy when he’d lift us onto his shoulders,
or do handstands and circle the yard.
Our birthday parties were always the best in town.
Abracadabra! and we were instant celebrities,
leading charmed elementary school lives.
Girls wore their admiration on their sleeves.

Not that we didn’t have it rough.
Times are always hard for dishonest men, no matter
how many rabbits they could pull out of a hat.
Some nights we heard our father swearing;
he muttered in his sleep.

Later the novelty would wear off, and perhaps
we had our shame on our faces once too often.
None of the card tricks or magic words
held the mystery and fascination they once did.
Abracadabras won’t put food on the table.
They won’t keep your kids out of fights or
your hands out of the liquor cabinet. They won’t dry up
sudden squalls of tears.

Maybe we should’ve seen it coming.
He lost the sparkle in his eyes, and fumbled the coins.
His breath was sweet with brandy. His armor rusted.
There were signs, but we thought he’d say, and now,
with a flick of the wrist, abracadabra! you can watch
me
dis
ap
pear!

It’s never that simple, and it’s always messy,
if you don’t know how to do it right.

There’s a gravestone, even though we never found a body.
The current was stronger than his soul. What if
we’d had a father that wasn’t larger than life, a farmer,
a pharmacist, someone boring who wouldn’t leave
his goddamn kids this way;
but then, we might accept this, move on easy.
His love was no legerdemain, so it must be this,
this passing away, this attempted suicide,
this sleight of body,
this Greatest Trick.
We wait for him at night. We whisper,
abracadabra!

we squeeze our eyelids tight,
count one-mis-sis-sip-pi,
open them,
and —

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Joseph Harker is the pseudonym of a foolish twentysomething, lately located on the East Coast of the US. He dreams more than he ought to, scribbles less than he wants to, and is a textbook Libra in just about every way. If you’d like to bother him, it’s best to visit his online demesne, naming constellations (but do mind your step).

Categories: Words of Power Tags: