Along River Road, Details and Sample Pages
Along River Road
From Here Press, Summit, New Jersey, 2005.
5 x 7½", 48 pages, saddle stitched, $9.
"I've just been savoring again the poems from Along River Road. . . . Thanks for sharing your kindred spirit with me." — Lorraine Anderson
"I've been curled up with Along River Road . . . it is wonderful! — Catherine Doty
10 — Penny Harter
Along River Road
I drive along River Road each morning,
come to the bend that crosses the Passaic
which today floods the yards of nearby homes.
In long ago photographs taken on this riverbank,
a small girl in overalls sits on the roots
of a tall tree, smiles at a dapper young man
holding the camera, waves at a slim young woman
in a flowered dress.
They have been out for a Sunday drive,
have picked this charming spot
to frame their toddler daughter
No way of knowing then
that I would pass it daily,
want to stop the car and stumble down
the stony slope to stare into the water
until I see those three
on that autumn day of little wind
and bright sun on the pale, floating leaves.
Long ago, I dreamt my mother
gathered sea shells as she wandered
the ocean's edge, bony toes
sinking into dark sand, dear feet
blessed and blessed again
by the scouring of salt.
And in my dream she bent
like a dancer, hands darting
to capture the spiral a snail left,
the smile of a clamshell
abandoned to the glimmer of dusk.
She has been dead a month,
and I do not dream.
But in that long ago,
she gathered shells in a pail,
returned at dark to some lit room
and laid them out to shine.
I reach for those shells now,
and one by one I hold them
to my ear, greedy
for the timbre of her voice
among those ceaseless waves.
26 — Penny Harter
My Great Aunt's Player-Piano
The old piano still sounds
though its keys are yellowed
from the oil of Aunt Allie's fingers
long gone to bone;
though its tin piano rolls whirled away
on the same wind that took the house.
A child plays it now,
enters the familiar room in moonlight
faint as the filmy clouds that drift
between the stars, and she remembers
the old songs—
"Down in the valley, the valley so low,
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow."
"Sleep my child and peace attend thee
All through the night."
"Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the Western Sea . . ."
Along River Road — 27
and even the ragtime
that bounced from her grandmother's hands
one New Year's Eve.
And as the child plays
they listen — the dear dog who curls
beside her feet as they pump the pedals,
the mice that live out on the porch
where Aunt Molly still must sleep
through every kind of weather,
and the faithful dust motes
that were and always will be
suspended in the stream of the child's breath
as she sings along.
42 — Penny Harter
Having no destination, I am never lost.
"There are fifty people here,"
my father tells me, "and some of them
walk round and round all day."
He carries his questions in his pocket,
fingering the keys that used to mean
something, the coins that go nowhere
but his palm.
He has been trying to get home
from a voyage lasting ninety-four years.
What mast has he tied himself to?
What crew plugged their ears
against his cries to be unbound
as he struggles to beak free?
He would swim through rapids
toward voices that call out to him
at night, luring him somewhere,
Along River Road — 43
anywhere, away from his body
breaking down, his mind
whose strings are snapping
one by one.
Before the accident, my father
did not know his destination
would be an eighteen-wheeler
stopped at a red light, and we
did not know that Mother's life
would end so soon.
A few weeks afterward,
as we rode together on some errand,
my father's roughened fingers closed
around my hand as if he were drowning.
But I cannot save him from himself,
hauling him to safety on some shore
he'll know as home.
There is no map for that.
Please note: The sample pages above have been designed for computer screen display, and do not duplicate the details of the book design, such as fonts and spacing.