• Penny Harter

[11/7/21]

This afternoon I want to share a haibun I wrote fifteen years ago, one that was published back in 2006 in "Modern Haiku" (37.2). It captures my mood these days of waning light that drops into chill evenings on the cusp of winter.


There's something about November that carries nostalgia on its back. . . . maybe this year from the slowly changing leaves here in New Jersey, only turning to rather muted colors; the pickup truck ahead of me full of battered pumpkins, one looking as if a deer or other animal had been at it; or memories of childhood bonfires at the curb after we'd jumped into leaf piles. So I invite you to come on this long ago meditative ride with me.

____________________


Driving Through the New Jersey Dusk


Bare trees stretch like avenues into this twilight's luminous green, and the stars draw near. The road unwinds past lit windows, blue silhouettes of bushes. Flickering headlights sweep toward me over the crest of a distant hill. The air I drive through smells of wood smoke.


Now a field begins, stretching its pale body under the full moon, and now the closed, black ranks of forest. Atop the next rise an all-night diner blinks. A few truckers sleep in the lot. Inside, the knotty pine tables are lit by red candles; the waitress sponges a formica counter.


all-night diner— a trucker tries to order the waitress


Across the valley a train whistles three times, like the syllables of a childhood name suddenly recalled, carrying with them an ache for something I rush toward this night, some landscape lost so long ago I can only guess its vague shape.


The road winds on. An abandoned gas station waits around the bend, blue phosphorus numerals lighting the clock above the calendar.


crumbling concrete— an old pick-up fills with cold moonlight


And out there, that glow in the sky, some city slows down for the night, neon still pumping. Passing through it, lights blurring like streamers on a birthday party hat, I find myself in the dark again, climbing into foothills of the mountains.


The past is our only security. The child I was still runs in the fields, still plays in the woods, still sleeps in a room with a night light. She comforts me, tells me stories about who we are, reminding me of landscapes and people known without trying in that long day and long night. I listen for a while and thank her for the memories. I was lonely before she began.


But I must drive a far distance to somewhere she has never been. I warn her that we might not know where we are when we get there. And then I comfort her, reminding her of something she knows but I had forgotten: the journey is our destination—the lost landscape, the nostalgia that swells across these hills, motive enough to keep going.


from the mountain only rivers, only clouds on this moonlit map

(c) 2021 Penny Harter

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