I'm a poet and writer living in the South Jersey shore area. I moved here from North Jersey in January of 2009 after the 2008 death of my husband William J. (Bill) Higginson, author of The Haiku Handbook, to be closer to my daughter and family. I'm a mom, grandma, and occasional poet-teacher for the NJSCA. My work has appeared in many journals, and in twenty-some books (including chapbooks). I read at the Dodge Festival in 2010, and have enjoyed two poetry residencies at VCCA (January 2011; March 2015). Please visit my blog: http://penhart.wordpress.com and my website: www.2hweb.net/penhart. My newest books are Recycling Starlight and The Resonance Around Us: http://mountainsandriverspress.org/TitleView.aspx
When I told him my dream
of the gourd rattle shape-shifting
into a bat, its furred face pressing
hard against my ear and whistling,
the Lumbee elder offered,
The Indians know about such things.
You must go into the forest alone
and sit down at the base of an oak.
Don’t think about your dream,
or what I’m saying.
I never followed his advice, but years later,
driving through a nearby woods, I remember
the old oak that held my childhood swing—
the oak that saved me from a hunter's bullet
shot from the marshes behind my house,
saved me from a death that flew so close
I heard it whistle by my ear as my feet
pumped hard against the dirt, and the oak
seat carried me higher and higher
into another world.
In the Cloak Room
I’m in the cloak room off kindergarten
in PS 21, the old elementary school still
standing on the asphalt playground of
my memory — a dim closet smelling of wet
wool, a cave at the back of the classroom.
I have closed the heavy sliding doors
with their pebbled glass panes, and
I’m counting the brass hooks that hold
our wet jackets and snow-pants,
then staring at the scuffed linoleum
where some snow-beaded wool mittens
have fallen to drift atop the tumble
of red and black galoshes, the kind
whose latches snap shut, closing
the flannel-lined front runnels.
On this chilly night of early winter
when all of us have been home for
years now—and some are long asleep,
I am back in this musty cloakroom,
trying to find which boots are mine and
wanting to climb again into my snowsuit,
zip it up all by myself, then snuggle
into a corner, feeling warm and safe
in the familiar dark.
All night I watch
the movement of snow
Waking again and again,
I check the window,
looking for a thaw
under the streetlight,
a white withdrawal
at the edge of the lawn.
Across the planet, missiles
discover one another,
kin embracing kin
in the night sky.
How briefly each one lives
above or in the dirt
that can not refuse it.
[Previously published in Turtle Blessing, 1996]
©2016 Penny Harter
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