Stones River, December 23

Tonight it will rain and grow colder still,
but this morning is clear and bright.
The early sun is alive, awake behind the treeline,
its beams dancing like fairies on the water,
and casting long shadows on
blue-green glass, to the glory of naked trees.
The river exhales into the chill winter air;
its breath rises in smokey ribbons
through the stillness, like faintly whispered
secrets of its own soul’s longing.

Resting against an old sweet gum,
I sit on its knotted roots, unearthed, exposed
to light by untold years of the river
flooding and flowing and falling.
My gloved fingers lace around a
stainless steel mug of tea;
my restless mind works
the endless questions, asked–never answered–
time and time again.

Out of the hush, a voice breaks the
disquiet in my spirit, and maybe I heard
what the river spoke:
Stop.
Let it feed you.
Let this be only what it is: a quiet morning beside the river
two days before Christmas.

So I lean back into the rough trunk of the
time weathered tree, whisper the words of the
Irish poet across the water in thanks, and
swallow the sunshine with my tea.

©stephanie g pepper, 2021

spam/scam/junk

greetings! i have to share bad news with you.
		dear user I am inside your email

approximately a few months ago...

[FRM:Pst L Patrick
SUBJ:HELLO
MSG:Are you going through
financial stress because of this pandemic?
My Ministry is helping individuals and
(Con’t) 2 of 2
families with $20,000

Reply YES if you are
interested .please ignore if you
are not in this category
Pastor Rev. Patrick

(End)]

some time ago, i purchased access to email accounts
		from hackers (simple to buy online)
...gained access to your devices. after that i have started
			tracking your internet activities

[One sip of this will trim Pounds
plus inches from first week
onwards. Recommended By
Sharktank Judges (link)]

some time ago, i purchased access to email from hackers
		(nowadays, it is quite simple to buy)

easily managed to log in to your email…

	one week later, i have already
		installed the trojan virus on
			all the devices you use
				to access email.

(it was not hard at all) all ingenious is simple. 🙂

i am invisible. likewise, i guess by now you understand why
		i have stayed undetected until
			this letter.

[ATT is giving you 200 dollars as
a thank you for your business
but you must claim it by today

(link)]

while gathering information about you
i have discovered that you are a big fan of…
websites…
	...watching exciting videos...enduring pleasure…

if you have doubts, i can make a few clicks of my mouse
		and all your videos will be shared with
--friends
--colleagues, and
--relatives.

[WE OWE YOU $852.26. A new
ruling caused us to overcharge
you last year. Your insurance
refund is ready. Please claim it
within 48 HRS: (link)]

i also have no issue at all with making them available for
              public access.
i guess you don’t want that to happen
                       considering the specificity…
let’s settle it this way:
                       you transfer $2567 usa dollar to me
       (in bitcoin according to exchange rate)
i will delete all this...stuff right away.
after that,
			we will forget about each other
that is a fair deal
                   the price is relatively low
                                                   considering…

[AT&T Free Msg: Antonio, we
accidentally overcharged your
account last month. Kindly
your compensation here:
(link)]

use a modern search engine

things you need to avoid from doing:
          *replying
          *contacting police...security services
          *telling your friends (if i discover that (as you can see
		it is not so hard, considering that i control all your systems)
			your videos will be shared with the public right away))
          *don’t try to find me--it is pointless.
          *don’t try to reinstall the os or throw your devices away

all the videos have been saved to remote servers.

[Due to the pandemic, Netflix is
giving everyone a free 1-year
subscription to help you stay at
home. Get yours here
(link)]

things you don’t need to worry about:
          *that i won’t be able to receive your funds
          *i will see right away (since i continuously track all your activities (my
	         	trojan virus has got a remote control)
          *that i will share your videos (after transfer, of course)

[We Will Lock Your Device Soon.
Please clear spam messages.
Scan Now – (link)]

                     trust me, i have no point to continue creating
troubles in your life. if i wanted that
		i would do it a long time ago!

[Using your identity the court has issued a
suspension notice along with the warrant
against your name ignoring this message
will be an intentional second attempt to
avoid initial appearance…]

everything will done in a fair manner!

one more thing: don’t get caught in similar situations in the future!

my advice: keep changing all your passwords frequently.

[…calling to let you know
that your car warranty has expired press one to
connect with an agent about
extending your car’s warranty…]

©stephanie g pepper, 2021

XX

I do not abide that one
completes another;
for you are whole
                            in yourself,
as I am whole
                            in myself.

Even so, were I buried
a thousand years
deep in the limestone hills,
and you called out
my secret name,
                            I would rise to meet you.

My love, the wonder and the joy is this:
I fly higher when I fly
                            with you,
and our fires burn hotter when they burn
                            together.

©stephanie pepper, 2021


shifter

1.
weary of myself
linked hands light on gray walls
as shadow wings

2.
a shapeshifter soul
shift now and rise
into the thinning day

3.
shed tired skin from
torn muscles, drain marrow from bones
and sorrows from a beaten heart

4.
shake loose the old dreams
broken by time, release stale
fantasies to fate

5.
tread the twisted path
to the wild edge of dusk
where twilight thickens to black

6.
if the road runs out
it is little concern
in flight there’s no need of earth

7.
below are ribbons
of rivers and ridges and valleys deep
markings of time and place

8.
with lightness of being
follow the path on the water
laid out by the white of the moon

9.
where the sky meets the sea
a convergence of space
unfolds in eternity

10.
beat now, raven, climb the steep wind
shiver and stretch in the thin cold air
on this midwinter night

11.
bewitched with the night
and shadows and flight
carry darkness into the dawn

12.
suffer the arrows of first morning light
rub gritty eyes with balled fists
and stretch out pale arms

13.
longing for
shadow
wings

©stephanie pepper, 2021

reading list: 2020 covid edition

Inspired by my friend Jennifer, I present my 2020 reading list.

2020 was a conscious, determined effort to read only from my shelf (who am I kidding: SHELVES). I confess that I added to said shelves along the way, as I found books that met me in the places I found myself. I also read around in several other poetry collections, but only included completed titles.

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Book of Delights, Ross Gay
Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners, Naomi Shihab Nye
Constance, Jane Kenyon
Let Evening Come, Jane Kenyon
A Small Porch: Sabbath Poems 2014 and 2015, Wendell Berry
The Sea in You: Twenty Poems of Requited and Unrequited Love, David Whyte
Sorry for Your Troubles, Pádraig Ó’Tuama
Gratitude, Oliver Sacks
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life, Joan D. Chittister
Swan: Poems and Prose Poems, Mary Oliver
The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay
The Bell and the Blackbird, David Whyte
Upstream: Selected Essays, Mary Oliver
The Boat of Quiet Hours: Poems, Jane Kenyon
Anam Cara: a Book of Celtic Wisdom, John O’Donohue
A Hundred White Daffodils, Jane Kenyon
The Soul’s Slow Ripening, Christine Valters Painter
Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters—and How We Talk About It, Krista Tippett
An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor
Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong, John O’Donohue
This Day: Sabbath Poems Collected & New: 1979-2013, Wendell Berry (read, savored slowly over the course of three years)
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
Confessions of a Christian Mystic, River Jordan
99 Psalms, SAID
Magdalene: Poems, Marie Howe
Imagination in Place, Wendell Berry
How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice, Pat Schneider
The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall
The Persistence of Rivers: an essay on moving water, Alison Townsend

When in the soul such darkness loosed

When in the soul such darkness loosed
uncovers what light hath hid;
what gaudy day hath swept aside
the tender night embraced.

Unveiled in dreams, what secrets pass,
unknown to lucid dawn?
Thus where but darkness doth prayer come,
the hoarse and truest cry?

It shivers on the fragile skin,
unbinds the heart at last–
and gathers up the lonely tears,
in garish daylight spilt.

©stephanie pepper, 2020

and so, as one

The year has aged,
and with it, us,
and this, perhaps, more than others.
We’ve come now to
the end, a year
virus burned through the continents
like the wildfires in the West,
and Justice rose up in outrage,
screaming loud to be heard
amid the clatter of hatred
and injustice;
(and how violently I awoke).

But, November.

And indecency now caged,
rattles the bars, grasping,
gasping, its dying breaths
giving way to dignity,
decency restored,
and hope rises on the
very fingertips of the morning
in a steady march toward resurrection.

I do not wish my life away with
this forward gaze, for I am
firmly grounded here, now;
but my vision rises on the wind
with the red-tailed hawk, to glimpse
what lies beyond.

To be sure,
there is winter ahead,
and much to be done,
and rebirth is no easier
than birth;
but the thread that weaves
through air and history remains,
still binds humanity as one;
and so, as one,
we rise.

©stephanie pepper, 2020