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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter


October is among my favorite months, blazing with scarlet and gold—compensation for its shortening hours of daylight. It also holds memories of loss—my husband, my father, and yet reminds me that there can be shining days, crisp, cool, halcyon days under a vivid blue sky. Here are two related poems from last year’s book A Prayer the Body Makes, the second one a kind of meditative daydream. Those we have loved and lost remain part of us forever, and we go on!

Autumn Walk

I am not thinking about you as I pass the neighbor’s white trumpet flowers, sagging as they spill from the vine— so tenderly cared for before her death.

Nor am I thinking of you when the sun- dappled leaves cast their shadows on the rough macadam, their high rustling like a fall of glitter spangling my bare arms.

The nearby tidal brook is low, its surface a veil of scum. Keep Out, the sign says, but I can feel the turtles and small fish going about their lives, hidden in brackish water.

And now by the ball field, where the sky opens, and the horizon darkens with trees, I count my loves as if they are candles on a birthday cake—and do not blow them out.

© 2020 Penny Harter, from A Prayer the Body Makes (Kelsay Books, 2020) ______________________________

Across the Autumn Field

Who comes across the autumn field, bearing an armful of dry corn stalks like a woman might hold an infant, cradling them in the slant light that cloaks his hunched shoulders?

And why is he walking toward you, his work shoes sinking into the dust, while you, barefoot and rooted, a leafless sapling at the field's edge, can only wait to receive his gift?

Behind him, a mule pulls a harrower, erasing his path, breaking the soil to render it fertile, turning dry clods over to ready them for storm clouds now billowing on the horizon.

Beyond the field is a woods, and at its center a plot for green burial, and suddenly you know that the approaching stranger only wants to welcome you, hand you his spent stalks with

their story, their knowing that what enters the earth will emerge again, green and tender, and that the sapling you have become will flourish new leaves when the rains arrive.

© 2020 Penny Harter, from A Prayer the Body Makes (Kelsay Books, 2020)

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