Penny Harter

Oct 04, 2010 3 Comments by Sea Stories

Facing the Sea

Sometimes there are faces in the sea—
shimmering faces with foam eyes, whose lips
dissolve as they try to kiss the shore before
the tide can suck them back into the deep.

A fearless child, I used to front the waves,
walking out to where they broke against
my chest, staring down through churning
sand and salt, certain that a sea-pale
mermaid’s face would rise to greet my own.

How many oceans feed these fantasies
of finding once again what we have lost?
When will your dear face come back,
your gray beard cresting on a wave
that breaks against my heart?

copyright © 2010 Penny Harter, in Recycling Starlight. Mountains and Rivers Press, Eugene, Oregon.

I Swim a Sea That Has No Shore or Bottom
*********************after Petrarch

I swim a sea that has no shore or bottom.
I drift through space around a dying star.
Awake, I stare into a blue tomorrow.
Asleep, I try to reach that place you are.

Each night I find myself in rougher waters.
With every stroke I reach for your dear hand.
The sea-birds call, their cries a faint reminder
of houses we once built upon the sand.

The memories I float on this salt ocean
are nothing more than bubbles in the foam.
And I am swimming in an ancient riddle,
still hoping I can dream myself back home.

I swim a sea that rocks me in its thunder,
yet buoys me so that I can’t go under.

copyright © 2010 Penny Harter, in Recycling Starlight. Mountains and Rivers Press, Eugene, Oregon.


Penny Harter lives in the South Jersey shore area, about a half-hour inland from Ocean City. Her husband died in October of 2008, and these poems from her chapbook, Recycling Starlight, reflect some of her journey through grief. Other recent books and chapbooks include The Night Marsh (2008), Along River Road (2005), and Buried in the Sky (2002). With her late husband, William J. Higginson, she co-authored The Haiku Handbook (25th Anniversary Edition, 2010), and her children’s illustrated alphabestiary, The Beastie Book, came out in December, 2009. Her work appears in many print and on-line journals and anthologies, and she has received three poetry fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Mary Carolyn Davies Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the William O. Douglas Nature Writing Award. She’s excited to have been invited to read at the 2010 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, and she recently received a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) for a residency during January, 2011. To learn more about her, please visit her web site and her blog:;

More information about Penny’s most recent chapbook, Recycling Starlight, is available here.

Autumnal 2010, Littoral Currents

About the Editors

Casey R. Schulke grew up along the Kuskokwim River in a rural Athabascan village in Alaska fishing for king salmon and mushing her sled dog team. She now resides on the shores of Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska. Casey's a poet, a naturalist, a dog-lover, has two birds, and is married to a wonderful man.

3 Responses to “Penny Harter”

  1. Geoff Sanderson says:

    Penny, I know you only as the co-author of ‘Writing and sharing haiku …’, the book that was a revelation to me and many others when it was published, and latterly as the widow of the late and much lamented Bill. I discovered these two poems purely by accident – when a friend (Pris Campbell – soon to be published here) sent me the link; they immediately captured my imagination, taking me on a journey with you. I could feel your loss, and admired the way you used metre and rhyme – though grieving – to construct these perfectly-crafted poems. Thank you very much. Geoff.

  2. Pris Campbell says:

    Your poems left me breathless. They’re beautiful both in content and in skill of writing. I’m so glad I found these. Geoff said it well in his comment above.

  3. Penny Harter says:

    Dear Geoff and Pris,

    You left these comments in October of 2010, and I’m just finding them now in March, 2011. I hadn’t visited this link in some time, and back then I didn’t even realize one could leave comments in response at this site.

    I am grateful for your kind words, and for the fact that the poems reached your hearts.

    Thank you! Penny

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