Three Poems by HR Harper
"Escape from Belle Isle," "The Hut of Otherwise," and "Star Songs"
Escape from Belle Isle in the prison of pines and parables and lost time on mountains above the bay of shadows you hunger for more than liberation now you know that all bridges are lies …you are stuck in the middle in the mean of metaphors that darken custody in such a cage you read your own palm looking for a lifeline the truth you long for won’t say its real name and in the solitary confines of subject and object you fake escape, you claim roots, with a faceted rock you slough off the words rationed; you make new words you wrestle an angel for ladders in the canopy of tall trees in the bells that ring the hour in the tide below flowing with its rules and in the simple conjuring in the red notebook you hold so tightly -- that truth, the soul’s truth, sets nothing free: a metal key jangles on a jailor’s belt the tide rises to cover the narrow beach a limb falls to the ground pounding the earth with sorrow the late hour closes every door to you here, you learn that thinking you are a god does not make you a god these are the rules too the mark of impermanence is on everything and you only can lock yourself in such loss you can only scratch the days passing on the stone walls one morning in fall, in the cooling sun a map falls from the notebook you can get lost on this map but a florid compass rose points directions it is a chart to the northwest passage that surely takes you out to an end who knows? you ask the sailor in the next cell he says “row, row, oh sweet and wounded pilgrim; the oar in your arms loosens from the gunwale -- your body, too, loses chains and sinks in the certain tide” in this school for scoundrels you learn not to wait for magic for charts to secret islands you learn the sacred improbable has buried stolen jewels in you your shadow draws stickfigures it is the author of your numerous mistakes one line, two lines, cross four to make five on the wall in your notebook of thinking in the deepest sea you must cross while you are still alive who can tell what rends the veil? but it is the moon that pulls you apart and takes you down to the wooden wharves made of roots pulled from the dark earth free for only this moment when you taste the salty sea what’s torn never mends and you would stay in one place then if you wanted to be a hollow diamond so you write definitions of freedom on each white page then wander a little longer -- the rules may follow you before you bend the fallen branches form a raft in the diaspora of sense as the merciful ocean carries you away from shore the bell on the buoy rocks and rings behind you and you begin the voyage out of your hands
The Hut of Otherwise the table of splinters sits in a fallen shed; it is a rectangle of ash and dust and human labor left in the middle of the hut with no walls the roof burned off and now it’s time to recover stars the cottage wants cleaning sweep around it! get rid of it all! leaves and fur and rust the particles of first cause the sweeping never ends the broom catches galaxies yet misses what is small bring a cot, two cots, and arrange them against the hut’s missing walls sleep the sleep of the wicked, there’s space enough for all no need for walls anyway, things are too busy becoming otherwise and the absent roof? that’s an ancient fiction, nothing but made-up stories a wooden table sat there, arrayed with archaic tools, all temporary all already gone before you can hold them your memory is a hut burned before you build it -- it’s to its ash you will return
Star Songs A woman is singing down in the valley -- you cannot hear her as the night covers you with deep violet silence. You’ve picked the mountain top to sleep. To distance yourself from such songs. But the stars, whose lights do touch you, tell you her story, warn you – you misunderstand, you think she is the predator. You freeze and pull in your nubby claws to sit in sand at this saddle between north and south and you pretend you can hear her -- you think this lie will hide you; an ostrich’s head in the sand of evolution. All your performance buries you. You deny the stars’ comfort tendered. You let them spin away. You are relieved when you think you have no guidance. East or west, paths climb in both directions. The sawtooth ridges on both sides scrape the sky for impartiality. You’re on the edge of something, you can almost smell it. But you won’t climb; it’s yellow-golden morning and you must choose. Yesterday, in the valley, thick with both aversion and obsession your body stopped in its tracks to stand like a shield. Only dusk freed you and now it’s day again. You must simplify your life. But don’t expect to sing. Song isn’t something you earn. The lilies in this valley, are planted by spinning stars too. You think you have been abandoned, though you are held in an embrace by what you cannot hear. So you walk south, hoping the woman follows. Hoping someday you will hear her. Hoping she catches and consumes you. The stars have a green power to answer these false hopes – their melodies purge the madness and its monetized residue. Do you know why you’ve lost the ability to fly? You must change your life.
About the Author:
HR Harper, author of the three poems submitted here, a writer living in the redwoods above Santa Cruz CA, was a creative writing major at UCLA and studied in the English Ph.D. program there. He worked as an educator in central city schools for years. A student of meditation and apophatic traditions, he writes to understand human consciousness in a natural world humans seem to be destroying. Writing poetry and fiction over decades, he only began to publish in 2021. Some of his recently published work may be found at: