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Steve Harris

Steve Harris' work has appeared in a number of print and online publications.

He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.


(Latvia, 1919)

Everywhere sounds of cranes and geese 
fill the air, while on roadsides magpies feed 
on faces of the dead. We are in retreat,
passing fields of pale grass, grey willows,
and grey-green corn. Behind us is Riga
and the sea; before us a great forest. 
Last night we burnt a village near a river,
tossed grenades through windows, dumped bodies
down wells. I saw my long-haired angel
from Bremen flail a blackened wall with a child.
I have forgotten how to pray. As our column 
enters the forest we pass by birch and dark pine.
I hear larks and jays in the limbs above me,
and nightingales by the hundreds.

© Steve Harris

Blue Angel

Hot voodoo and cool Venus in a top hat:
Dietrich dances the Tango with a woman, 
and then slips a violet neatly behind 
Gary Cooper's ear. It is 1930, 
and sex in the studio has a soft focus:
woman is man, and man woman --
genders merge in a mirror propped
beside von Sternberg's camera. Marlene
poses, pouts, and in a low, husky voice
asks for an American cigarette; eyes 
veil, then smoke: she's falling in love
again in the mirror's bending blade of light.

© Steve Harris

Marlowe at Deptford 

Terror: one dark eye, open
beneath a twelve-penny knife;

comets shoot across
an inner night sky,

and the soft egg -- cut, runs
onto the dramatic cheek

of the atheist or rogue
or Queen's good agent.

Sweet scents 
from Widow Bull's garden;

and salt and shit
from the slaughter yards --

the red-clotted troughs
of Bow Ditch;

nearby, tar and rope and sea,
and laughter in a little room

that tongues deep
into an echoing ear.

Hands relax on arms, legs,
and the hemorrhage spreads 

like a cloak, or an ink spot,
over the dead brain of the ironist.

© Steve Harris


Medea, alone on the seashore,
head tilted, hair tightly bound,
darkened eyes not quite seeing
the tiny bones and shells of dead things
in the sand. Behind her, burning dunes
and swarms of stinging flies;
above her, a blue metal sky
set with white tin clouds.
She waits for weak-chinned Aegeus;
she listens for the dipping oars.

© Steve Harris


One thousand years, even more, of painted faces,
peacock fans, golden-robed Comnenas and golden-tongued
Chrysostom, Christian dialogue as court hobby,
an endless debate over God and Mother and Son,
and the defining of deity with hairsplitting precision.
On the Emperor's dais a general's hidden dagger,
a repeated act with different names every fifty years.
Out on the Golden Horn Greek fire sprays from syphons
a shower of molten nubs, incinerating the latest invader
from North or East. Even the water burns. A pattern
so old few notice the first dulling of Empire's mosaic,
how dolphins and laurel-cradled crosses fade; 
how a buttery lion softens beneath accumulating sand;
how that lion now appears to nuzzle a warrior's horse,
its stone teeth no longer seen, no longer tearing out
the stone testicles of a white-eyed beast.

© Steve Harris


Red blooms open at my wrists,
grow deeper, softer in their unfoldings. 

Indistinct. I feel Roman, 
or perhaps Greek, 

here among sweating tiles
a gleaming faucet, fresh towels.

But I choose not to watch
the water's coloring,

and instead take a sleepy breath, 
listen to the Corelli on the stereo.

The music is busy, 
like hundreds of silvery angels

going at it: God's insects
rubbing their legs together.

But an unwanted image intrudes -- 
a beautiful boy's face,

marble white, marble pure
in the darkness of the confessional.

Then another. A dozen?
Two dozen? I don't know.

There's been this silence
these many years, drowned out now

by the roar of my blood.

© Steve Harris