Wednesday, 7 October 2020

In the Shadows

by Penny Harter

Despite the cooling car, today’s ride is
so hot and humid that I slow down in the
shadows cast across the pebbly macadam
by tall oaks and creep along, hoping to find
again the grassy lane that runs into the woods.

Down that lane yesterday a deer stood on
spindly legs, freely nibbling fresh green shoots
along the wooded edge until she noticed that
I’d stopped to better see her. Sadly, she froze
in place to stare back, her delicate body alert.

Although I doubted that the deer would reappear
today, I longed for another moment’s grace that
would lead my spirit down that lane, lure me
from my time and place into deer time. And I
hoped not to frighten her.

And she was there, this time with two fawns
who seemed unafraid of my car, leaning against
her flanks. I was happy to learn that my deer
was a mother, guiding and protecting her young,
knew that was why she froze again in fear.

I seek glimpses of lives that aren’t my own,
am grateful for this grazing deer family—for
their freeing me from my own frozen stance
these endless alien days, and for calling me
to home on this planet that we share.

* * * * *

"In the Shadows" was first published on the author's "New Blog" at

Penny Harter’s work has appeared in Persimmon TreeRattleTiferet, and many other journals. Her poem "In the Dark" was featured in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column. Her most recent collection is A Prayer the Body Makes (2020). A featured reader at the 2010 Dodge Poetry Festival, she has won three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, two fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), and awards from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Poetry Society of America. For more info, please visit:


  1. Lovely.. and we so need that pause into deer time, or sky time, or river time, to let the natural world unfreeze us