A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose

Penny Harter’s

most recent books are The Night Marsh (WordTech Editions, 2008), Along River Road (From Here Press, 2005), Lizard Light (Sherman Asher Books, 1998), and Buried in the Sky (La Alameda Press, 2002).

Her rhyming children’s alphabestiary, The Beastie Book, publishes in late fall 2009 as a picture-book from Shenanigan Books.

The poems were written in the aftermath of her husband Bill Higginson’s death in October, 2008.

Web site.

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In the ICU, October, 2008 For Bill

You ask if there’s a window anywhere.
Behind your bed, the room’s only window
opens on yellow leaves and morning sky.
Bring me a mirror tomorrow, you demand.

You take the mirror in your tethered hand
and slowly angle it as you seek proof
that you are still alive and still on Earth.
And then you briefly contemplate your face.

A few days later when your breathing slows
to a few uneven gasps and suddenly stops,
what are you seeing as you stare through me,
your eyes fixed on the ceiling near the door?

I need no mirror to show me your death.
Every day I translate your last breath.


November After the painting A Black Bird with Snow-Covered Red Hills
By Georgia O’Keeffe

You have been dead a month.
The light leaves earlier now,
and the dark falls hard and cold
into my veins.

In this painting, a raven
shapes its muscle to the wind,
stretching tapered wings as if
to shelter frozen slopes below
the curve of its warm breast,

and I am become both raven and range
a black suspension in the cobalt sky
and the hills that harbor snow.


Recycling Starlight

Is this your destinationthe ashes
that were you first sinking back
into damp soil, as if Eden were
a holy compost pile, then spiraling,
invisible, out of that mix into
the gaseous fire of a nascent star?

We often spoke of being recycled,
of how our very molecules were
just visiting. We affirmed the old
adage, Nothing is ever lost,
as we sat across from one another,
our computer screens flickering on
and off.

This morning, in my new life
without you, the mulch is pungent
in the flowerbed under my window,
the sky gray and promising rain.

And I wonderas I breathe
in the fertile stench rising
from this garden that waits
for the sun to do its work
if I’m inhaling you.