The moon was a beautiful splinter last night, hanging amber in the indigo sky, while threads of milky purple clouds drifted by like lazy hitchhikers on a deserted highway. Oh, I wanted a picture—or two— but between arriving home and chopping onions for soup, leaving no time to get the camera, the moon dropped behind the trees, then, slipped below the horizon, out of reach, out of time. If I’d known— if I’d known, I would’ve stood in her light a little longer, gazed more fully, breathed more deeply, taking in the angled crescent nodding luminous in the muted night. I carry it now, a photograph in my mind, as I do all beautiful things. ©stephanie g pepper, 2020
How many drops make a river where silver bellied fish flash in the sun? How many make the puddle in the pothole where a robin splashes in the rain? For that matter, how many make this mug, make this spoonful, make a cup, make a kettle? How many make a spring storm, that soaks the winter weary earth? Don’t ask about the ocean-- it’s futile to guess. So. What is one more drop, or another tear that falls?
©stephanie g pepper, 2022
Window Poems, Wendell Berry
Conamara Blues: Poems, John O’Donohue
100 Poems, Seamus Heaney
Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems, Joy Harjo
The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry
Given: Poems, Wendell Berry
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver
Bright Dead Things: Poems, Ada Limón
The Mad Farmer Poems, Wendell Berry
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: poems, Marie Howe
Breathing the Water, Denise Levertov
Entries: poems, Wendell Berry
Red Suitcase, Naomi Shihab Nye
Station Island, Seamus Heaney
What Do We Know: poems and prose poems, Mary Oliver
Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey: poems 1991-1995, Hayden Carruth
How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons), Barbara Kingsolver
Dearly, Margaret Atwood
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton
A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There, Aldo Leopold
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, J. Drew Lanham
Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, Mirabai Starr
Standing by Words: essays, Wendell Berry
Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer
The Beginner’s Photography Guide, Chris Gatcum
If Women Rose Rooted: a life-changing journey to authenticity and belonging, Sharon Blackie
It All Turns on Affection, The Jefferson Lecture & Other Essays, Wendell Berry
Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés
The Body Knows the Way: Coming Home Through the Dark Night, Gordon Peerman
Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy, edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll
Wild Like Flowers, The Restoration of Relationship through Regeneration, Daniel Firth Griffith
The Long-Legged House: essays, Wendell Berry
Late Migrations; A Natural History of Love and Loss, Margaret Renkl
The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
Fidelity: Five Stories, Wendell Berry
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Memory of Old Jack, Wendell Berry
The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow
The Wild Birds: Six Stories of the Port William Membership, Wendell Berry
Remembering, Wendell Berry
Circe, Madeline Miller
A World Lost: a novel, Wendell Berry
This morning I had a long conversation with a winter wren. I’m not sure what passed between us, exactly, only that something did. Something that left me feeling joyful… giddy, almost… and definitely delighted. All afternoon I considered this, and wondered why such a secretive little bird would call me out for a chat, which, clearly, she did, kit-kittering loudly all around me until, at last, I called out “hello, Little One,” and rose to find her in the undergrowth. She did not startle and fly away at my approach, but studied me quite carefully as I spoke. Neither was she injured, as she crept around under the rocks and hopped among the tangled thickets, a worm dangling from her fine, sharp beak, chittering all the while. And now, night has fallen fully, and the moon peers out behind the clouds, and I—delighted and grateful—am no closer to knowing what, exactly, passed between me and the winter wren.
©stephanie g pepper, 2021
1. When I am beside the water, I sink to the earth, to my knees in shell fragments and river stones, polished and smooth by the endless passing of water this way 2. and what troubles me dissolves and the jagged edges of my discontent soften 3. how many times will I kneel by the water to heal? 4. the unseen heron cries and reveals himself at last in the beating of great wings 5. and I rise, saved again by the clean air and the blesséd earth and the sweet clear water
©stephanie pepper, 2021
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:
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
Last October I had the opportunity to go back to my alma mater, Transylvania University, for a reading honoring the founder of Larkspur Press, Gray Zeitz. Among those reading that night were Bobbie Ann Mason and Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, but I had my eyes on only one poet–Wendell Berry. I was introduced to Berry’s writing many years ago, before I even read poetry let alone wrote poetry, by singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson at a church VBS picnic. When he found out that I–a proud Kentuckian–had never read Wendell Berry, he said I simply must. Properly chastised, I read Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter, two of Berry’s beautiful novels soon after, and while I knew he was a poet, I didn’t pick up a collection of his poetry for several more years (mostly out of my own weird notion that I just wasn’t a “poetry person”). When I began to read poetry about two years ago, Berry’s was some of the first work that I read. He hooked me as solidly with his poetry as he had with his prose, and I was a goner. I consider him to be one of the major influences on my poetry, but he hasn’t just influenced my writing. He has influenced the way I look at life, and living, and being human. And through his writing and living, how nature is as sacred a sanctuary as a church building.
Meeting him…it was an honor of the highest degree. I didn’t tell him that I am a writer; a poet. I fangirled. That’s ok.
Green corduroy jacket
on a dark morning,
a girl embraced eternity.
“Peace, you’re not my prisoner,”
“and I am not yours.”
So sail soft, slow, baby,
on the porcelain ocean.
She’s a starless poetry ghost.
©stephanie g. pepper, 2020
(Another in the poetry challenge series from a couple of weeks ago that I have edited just a bit. This poem started as a Magnetic Poetry poem. I’ve edited slightly, but only added words from the original word choice selection I was given, with the exception of the word “jacket” and a few articles.)