• Penny Harter


Updated: Sep 22, 2020

This poem was written late today in response to a photograph, “Early Morning Clouds in Water,” a picture prompt posted earlier by Christina Raskopf Norcross.

As a child I loved lying on my back in the grass and watching the sky. I saw faces, animals, and more in the clouds. In my first published book, “House By the Sea”, long out of print, I wrote “To the Giant Cloudbirds.” a poem I post below this new one. Even while only in my thirties, I was already probing the mystery of time, the potential of loss.

During these mostly at-home days in New Jersey, I sometimes find myself doubting whether life as we remember it will ever be “normal” again. I am increasingly aware of time passing, of both human and planetary fragility, and of our inevitable mortality. And although I'm not *that* old yet, the perspective of years can remind us what's most important to give our attention to, especially when we need comfort. So here's today's poem.


In Old Age

In old age my purpose changes.

I become a gatherer of clouds

from blue waters, row out most

dappled days to net them in my

well-worn seine and stow them

in my trusty canoe for when I

might need them on a day too

bright to see.

In old age I gather clouds from

still waters, fill the corners of

my cabin with gentle murmurs,

find comfort in their slow shape-

shifting that mirrors my own . . .

in old age . . . .

(c) 2020 Penny Harter


To the Giant Cloudbirds

I know you

from the old tales

from tribal memories

of my Cherokee great-grandma,

you gray birds of cloud

whose wingspread

arcs the sunset.



of beak and feather

from another world-age

you are gone to smoke and dust,

you are ghosts

in whose wake curl delicate

black waves.

Now you darken the sky

giant guardians

ancient birdgods


© 1975 Penny Bihler, in “House By the Sea”, my first published chapbook long out of print.

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