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

©stephanie pepper, 2021


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

a shapeshifter soul
shift now and rise
into the thinning day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

longing for

©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

you learn

You learn, don’t you,
by living?
How quickly the light changes,
from full and warm
to slanted and cold
in the time it takes
to turn your head;
how your love, given,
turns to hate,
burns to ash
in the wrong hands,
but blooms into an endless
meadow of wildflowers,
bright and fragrant,
in the right hands;
how living is steps
and missteps,
backwards and forwards,
forever deepening,

You learn, don’t you,
by living

©stephanie pepper, 2020