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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter


Finally, a new poem—this Labor Day weekend haibun.

Culling Clothes

Day after day, I’ve been promising myself that I would get to sorting through my closets and drawers, culling clothes I no longer wear (since I don’t go much of anywhere these days), discarding pieces I’ll never have occasion to wear again, or those too small, too large. Today I have at it, filling five bags to take to the thrift shop—returning many of these clothes to their origins in thrift shops months or even years ago.

again in the garden

she wrestles with the roots

of resistant weeds

I don’t need that many clothes, have been living for weeks now in shorts, capris, or jeans, with a handful of short or long-sleeved tops. I have decided not to resume leading the twice-weekly meetings of the spousal loss grief-support group—meetings which helped define my days of the week for eleven years until the pandemic shut them down. I no longer teach either full or part time. Poetry readings are currently virtual and far fewer than they used to be.

Each piece I contemplate before pulling it off the hanger startles me with memory. These long pandemic spring and summer days have been full of reminiscences, partly from the fact of being relatively sheltered at home, and partly from an increasing awareness of aging—of years left behind, lives left behind.

sorting photos

I find myself in a hall

of mirrors

Some I can’t part with. The gorgeous velvet jacket my late husband surprised me with one Christmas, or the multi-colored hand-woven vest—both from our Santa Fe days, and both of which cost far too much for our modest budget then. The jacket leads to the memory of the first time I wore it—some Japan-related celebration in Manhattan that Bill had been invited to. I felt so elegant, so blessed.

old beach chair

fabric fraying, still kept

just in case

I tell myself this is a time of renewal—restrictions easing bit by bit here in New Jersey, fall on the horizon, and maybe a vaccine. Clearing my closets and drawers of surfeit, of remnants of the past, opens my way to different ways of spending my days. I’ll continue frequent rides on the back roads of south Jersey, looking for turtles and deer. I hope to keep writing more and to spend more time with family and friends.

crepe myrtle—

that unknown flowering tree

I suddenly name

I’ll enjoy a meal in a restaurant, starting this week, both with my daughter and with my son and his wife who are down at Ocean City (NJ) for a week’s vacation. And yes, I’ll hope to resume the occasional visit to a thrift shop for the fun of hunting and gathering, but limiting my purchases to only those things that are absolutely irresistible.

inhaling the sea

breeze on that last bridge

before the barrier island

© 2020 Penny Harter

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