I'm a poet and writer living for the past six years in the South Jersey shore area. I moved here from North Jersey in 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 sometimes 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 website:www.2hweb.net/penhart and my blog: http://penhart.wordpress.com New books: Recycling Starlight; The Resonance Around Us http://mountainsandriverspress.org/TitleView.aspx
My death grazes just out of sight
over my right shoulder.
I hear the whisper of green
between her lips.
I imagine her as mare
heavy with foal,
tail swishing flies from her strong back,
eyes brown as a farm pond.
Each day I toss a lump of sugar
back into that unseen pasture,
murmur soothing words under my breath.
Wherever I go she migrates with me.
Even in winter
when fodder is scarce,
I feel her warm breath on my neck
and dream of bundled hay in a heated stall.
One day in some field
neither of us has visited
I will forget to toss the sugar
or to dream of hay,
and my death will canter closer
whinnying softly until her nose
finds my palm.
©1996 Penny Harter, from Turtle Blessing (La Alameda Press).
After the boy threw the pregnant turtle
hard against the brick wall
of the courtyard, screaming
What are you, some kind of
to the girl who called him crazy,
the creature bounced off,
crawled a few feet, blood
seeping into the weeds
from her cracked shell,
She died last night,
was buried, her eggs gone
with her into the earth.
This morning in the mist
by Seeley's Pond, an ancient turtle,
huge and black on the wet grass,
turns its blunt head this way, that,
as it crawls up the slope
toward the road, and I bless it
against the crunch of its dark shell,
against the driver who will not swerve.
©1996 Penny Harter, from Turtle Blessing (La Alameda Press)
That’s what they must have been,
or what we called them, we three
little girls roaming the woods that
began at the end of our neighborhood.
We knew those woods well—where
the skunk cabbage bloomed on its
island in the creek, or where tadpoles
lurked in the deeper woodland pools.
We were getting ready to vault that creek,
flying across on the rough poles we’d culled
from broken saplings, when we heard them
coming and soon saw them—three rough men
cutting through the underbrush and heading
toward the nearby gravel road. Young as
we were, something told us to hide behind
a hefty fallen trunk, duck our heads under
its branches heavy with their still green summer
leaves. Something told us to hold our breath,
to not move a muscle, to merge with the ferns
around our ankles, silent in flickering sunlight .
Those tramps passed so close beside us,
it seemed they must surely see us, might even
hurt us, though we did not fully understand
the kinds of hurt they might inflict.
Soon they were gone, but we stayed where
we were, each of us hidden like the roadside
fawn who by instinct crouches down among
tall grasses to be safe, to be safe, to be safe.
©2016 Penny Harter
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