The Known Earth

Used to be flat—any horizon a cliff over infinity.
And then the revelations of circles, orbits, spheres
upon spheres, stars and planets hurtling through
the heavens like embers spitting from a dying log.

Each winter my elderly neighbor’s garden grew
oaktag stars, orange and yellow pointy things
painstakingly traced and cut by her trembling hands,
then mounted on sticks among dormant rose bushes.
After her death they flamed fiercely above the snow.

When the dead breathe their last, those atoms rise to
surround the known Earth as it rotates in place around
a black hole. The smoke from my father’s cigarette
surrounded me as I lay full-length on the back seat
of Betsy-car, our 1940s Chrysler sedan, staring at
the moon riding with us down some rural highway—
a familiar smoke that merged with the hypnotic hum
of the motor, the strobe of occasional streetlights.

Show me the way to go home,
I’m tired and I want to go to bed,

we’d sing as my father flicked butt after butt out
the car window. Those flickered like dying stars
along the road’s edge, leaving in our wake tinder
for a field, sparks for a forest, and wads of paper
and shredded tobacco bleeding into sunrise.



About the Poet:
Penny Harter’s recent books include The Resonance Around Us (2013); One Bowl ( 2012); and Recycling Starlight (2010; reprint 2017). Recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in a number of journals, including Adanna, Persimmon Tree, Rattle, Tiferet, and Tattoo Highway, as well as in numerous anthologies. A featured reader at both the first (1985) and the 2010 Dodge Poetry Festivals, she has won three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts; the Mary Carolyn Davies Award from the Poetry Society of America; and two residencies from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts ( January 2011; March 2015).


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