beautiful splinter

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

sister moon, 10/8/2021
photo by: stephanie pepper, 2021

make a river

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

wrapped: reading list, v.2021

Poetry:
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

Nonfiction:
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

Fiction:
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

the winter wren

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

when I am beside the water

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

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


meeting

Meeting Wendell Berry at Transy, October 9, 2019. Photo by McRae Stephenson.

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.

poetry ghost

Green corduroy jacket
on a dark morning,
a girl embraced eternity.
“Peace, you’re not my prisoner,”
she said,
“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.)