• Penny Harter

[8/25/20]

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.


Motionless

thrusts

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


gone.


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

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