Author's Note: After having lived for years in North Jersey, then eleven years in Santa Fe, NM, my late husband, William J. (Bill) Higginson and I moved back to NJ. In 2009 shortly after Bill died, I moved down to the Jersey shore area to be near my daughter and her family. I'm widely published in journals, both print and on-line, and my most recent collections are "The Resonance Around Us" and "Recycling Starlight", both from Mountains and Rivers Press. My new collection "A Prayer the Body Makes" will be published summer 2020 by Kelsay Books / Aldrich Press.
Belly of a Bee
Dad, years ago when I read to you
my poem about honey in the belly
of a bee, you only said, Nice girls
don’t say belly, and turned away.
When flies lit on the table in another
piece I shared, again you criticized,
saying, I grew up on the farm.
Who wants to hear about flies?
For you, poems should be the smithy
under the tree, the forest primeval.
And ladies never use bad words.
Yet the only time you heard me at
a public reading, you leapt from your
seat to join me at the podium, inspired
to tell the audience that when I was
a baby, I used to say pote for smoke.
Then, however briefly, I knew you loved
me even so. Even so.
On my Way to the Writers Conference
The wind blows a plastic bag into the middle
of the pot-holed road, and I manage to
straddle it with my wheels, not knowing
what might be in it beyond emptiness.
I am somewhat empty, myself, having
rushed through a breakfast of two crusts
of walnut bread and a quick cup of coffee.
It is time to fill up with some poems,
time to remember who I still am.
A car hugs my bumper as I search
for the right parking lot. I pull over so
the harried driver can pass, and she does.
I write three poems before the break.
At lunch a woman asks if I know a poet
from when I lived a different life. I don’t.
And I find myself staring into a space I
left behind—a field of plastic bags the wind
has blown against its rampant weeds.
Telling Miss Low
In third grade art class, Miss Low,
I couldn’t tell you that the reason
you sent Sally and me to the principal
for laughing so hard we cried, was
your flowered shower cap.
We held long as we could, the giggles
that ached our ribs and spurted from
our mouths, but every day it rained
or snowed, a shower cap pulled over
your curly red hair did us in.
The Christmas cards you brought
for us to copy that day still shine
in my mind—the horse-drawn sleigh
on the farmhouse driveway, the winding
path through evergreens holding snow.
But mostly I remember your corkscrew
curls poking out under the elastic edges
of your shower cap as you leaned over
our desks, praising our simple barns and hills.
©2020 Penny Harter
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