“Anatomy of a Fustercluck” by Stephanie L. Harper

Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2016: Editor’s Choice


Painting by Ruth Bavetta
Painting: “Chronicle” by Ruth Bavetta. “Anatomy of a Fustercluck” was written by Stephanie L. Harper for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2016, and selected by Timothy Green as the Editor’s Choice winner.

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Stephanie L. Harper


It’s thanks to scenes like this
that I sometimes dread people,
particularly the way they flock to orange pylons,
fluster in clumps like maimed birds,
and hatch out stories,
which are always either parboiled in half-truths,
or scrambled by hypocrisy.

Take that camera-laden busy-body, for instance,
piqued there, barely disguising her hope
of spawning a murmuration—
donning her intrepidly purple polo,
she’s the self-declared ruler
of the pecking order that’s been bred into us
for the engendering of our chronicles:

Clearly, she knows how to swaddle her offspring
with ample pageantry
to ensure the stork’s swift delivery
of her inchoate prince.

Like Cronus, her Titan predecessor,
who swallowed up his own children
to thwart the prophecy of his time-driven demise,
she’s devouring a flood of raw peptides
from the sea-thick breeze
wafting right past the preoccupied deputy,
to sate her enduring appetite
for stone-cold lies.

Meanwhile, that blond-haired man
in the short shorts and flip-flops,
flashing his faux-gold wristwatch,
has been hanging this whole time
on the cluster’s fringe,
completely cracked.

If you ask me,
he’s as guilty as the day is long.

Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2016
Editor’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the editor: “From the start, this painting gave me an unsettling feeling, as if I’d sat down to watch Seinfeld and didn’t realize this was actually Twin Peaks. I couldn’t quite explain why, but this cast of characters just seemed so annoying. When I read this poem, I realized, ‘That’s it! They’re flustering in clumps like maimed birds!’ Harper makes sense of it for me, and with both humor and craft. Even the last line, which seems at first a cliché, fits perfectly—this kind of day is long, isn’t it?”

For more information on Stephanie L. Harper, follow her on Twitter. Audio recorded by Matthew Harper.

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