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
On my son's twenty-second birthday
we recall his birth,
how he nursed for twenty minutes,
and my engorged breasts.
My father tilts back in his chair.
Between spoonfuls of ice cream and cake
he speaks of his mother
whose breasts hardened with unused milk
when his baby sister couldn't take enough.
She asked each son
to suck out the pain.
I can see it plain as day,
my father says, closing his eyes.
I was ten years old.
We were on the back porch.
My younger brother wouldn't do it,
so I did,
I sucked out that milk.
Spit it in the dirt, my mother said.
Next day she went into town
and got a hand pump,
so she didn't need me.
Tonight, driving by a graveyard,
my headlights sweeping tombstones,
I think again of that ten-year-old
and mouthfuls of unswallowed milk
settling into the dust.
from Grandmother's Milk (Singular Speech Press, 1995)
©2016 Penny Harter
©2016 Penny Harter
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -FF