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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter


Husking Corn

Since I spend much time in the kitchen these days, I find myself contemplating simple tasks like peeling and coring an apple, cutting up chicken for soup, cracking an egg into a pan, observing the mysteries of pouring milk, frying fish. And now this revelation—husking corn. I do not take corn for granted.

rainy morning—

waking to the scent

of crockpot stew

One by one, I rip the green leaves off each ear of late corn in this bundle I got at the farm market. I twist off the tuft of silk that graces each tip, noticing how it stubbornly clings to my fingers and to the pearly kernels finally exposed. I rub it off under running water, remembering strands of webs strung between bushes that stuck to my face as I ran through them as a child.

traces of gossamer—

your fingers across my

autumn cheek

The sink fills with corn husks. My late husband used to lay a few in the pot where we boiled the corn, not sure why. I gather them up and dump them into the garbage under the sink. If I had a garden I’d compost them, but there are no gardens here in this condo development.

Here in south Jersey there are many cornfields. The stalks have all dried out by now, gone to autumn rust. Some days I, too, am rusting, or I feel husked, by the pandemic days, weeks, and months that have been stripping the leaves protecting my core. And yet, this harvest . . .

Harvest Home

Last night I cradled

a gathering of corn, my arms

heavy with gold, my lap

warm as an abundant field.

I wanted to give it away,

share the harvest

with any hungry animal,

I had so much.

Soon shadows came

to take some from my hands,

and then the gentle cows

whose brows were white as milk.

Afterward, I sought the stars

and the rows that led to them,

dark furrows lapping my feet

with the promise of sleep

while behind me, discarded husks

lifted on the evening wind

and fell again to earth.

© 2020 Penny Harter.

“Harvest Home” © 2008 from my book *The Night Marsh*.

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