PF detail from Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Beach Scene, Guernsey (Children by the Sea in Guernsey) - 1883;


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Penny Harter is published widely in journals and anthologies. Recent books include Recycling Starlight (2010), The Beastie Book (2009), and The Night Marsh (2008). With her late husband, William J. Higginson, she co-authored The Haiku Handbook (25th Anniversary Edition, 2010). A Dodge Poet who read at the 2010 Festival, 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 a January, 2011, fellowship from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.


Step on a Crack

Step on a crack
break your mother’s back.

What well of mythic childhood
malice birthed that mantra, causing
my little feet to jump from block
to block of pitted cement in order
to avoid those dark chasms along
an avenue whose name is buried now
like a lost city, and whose sidewalk
stretched between the foot of my street
and the drugstore with the counter
where Mother and I drank milkshakes
from frosted silver tumblers?

The wild tangle of brambles, bushes,
and stunted sumac trees that lined our
route beckoned, always beckoned me
to leave the familiar, to risk losing
my way. But more seductive was the
dependable rhythm of those cracks
through which crab-grass and weeds
poked up green spears, daring me to step
on them, possibly even to kill something,
as I hopped along through what I didn’t
know yet was my life.