In 2002, after eleven years living in Santa Fe (a mid-life leap after living most of our lives in NJ), my late husband Bill Higginson and I moved back to northern NJ to be closer to family again. Grandchildren started being born, plus we missed our kids. After Bill died in 2008, I moved again, down to the South Jersey shore area to be near my daughter and her family. I am about a forty-minute drive inland, on winding country roads, from the Atlantic Ocean.
Two spiders, black condensations
at the seam of wall and ceiling,
squat three feet apart, separate
from the safe bedroom
until we turn off the light
and they bleed into the dark.
Are their legs gathered in
to their bodies, black holes
on the perfect ceiling white
that still exists at night
like starlight from the dead?
Or do they radiate, hairy limbs
sidling toward one another
perhaps to mate, perhaps
to grapple unto death,
twins clinging to the edge
of a dream?
I want to kill them,
squash the black thumbprints
of their flesh, flush them away
before their sure descent
to squat on my closed eyelids,
but I cannot,
for they, too, are satellites
circling the center, living
to catch what they can
and devour it
one night at a time,
[Previously published in Buried in the Sky]
Line Dancing at Dusk by the Hudson River
Through the light still rising
from the river, the dark
falling from the trees
above the lit pavilion,
the old tunes chime like memory.
We walk across the fading grass
toward bright bodies, tiny
in the distance, moving together,
apart, circling down the lines,
and we climb to the old woman
calling the steps, to the smiling
dancers whose faces turn
like flowers toward the sun
of one another, and all of them
shining in their sweat, rosy
from the heat, the fusion
of the dance.
[Previously published in Grandmother's Milk]
I am barely walking, my chubby legs unsteady
on the damp sand, when Daddy carries me out
to the lagoon, a sandbar off the Jersey shore,
and plumps me down in the middle. Laughing,
I sit down, pat the sand around me, unafraid
of the gently breaking waves.
Mommy is on the shore, waving. Our backs are
to the ocean, this roaring water I am meeting
for the first time I remember.
Suddenly, a huge wave sweeps me off the edge
and into a green swirl of churning water, white
bubbles, and I’m tumbling over and over until
my father’s hand grabs me, hauls me up, then
sets me on the sand of the shore. My mother is
bending over me shouting at my father. I gulp air,
crying hard, and when I open my eyes, the world
is spinning, spinning, my father is also shouting,
and everything's upside down.
© 2018 Penny Harter
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