Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Growing up in small town Alabama, most of my formative summers were spent at the community pool. I have such vivid memories of the chain link fence, the lifeguard's whistle, my mom's cooler full of lunch--because we certainly weren't allowed to purchase something from the snack machines (which I fully understand why now), and the drowsy heat of the station wagon as we drove home each afternoon.
Then in Jr. High, I remember the pressure of buying just the right bathing suit and the relationship games that began when we were much too young to understand the consequences.
Because of those pool side memories, I have always loved the following poem. It is summer to me.
The Summer I Was Sixteen
The turquoise pool rose up to meet us,
its slide a silver afterthought down which
we plunged, screaming, into a mirage of bubbles.
We did not exist beyond the gaze of a boy.
Shaking water off our limbs, we lifted
up from ladder rungs across the fern-cool
lip of rim. Afternoon. Oiled and sated,
we sunbathed, rose and paraded the concrete,
danced to the low beat of "Duke of Earl".
Past cherry colas, hot-dogs, Dreamsicles,
we came to the counter where bees staggered
into root beer cups and drowned. We gobbled
cotton candy torches, sweet as furtive kisses,
shared on benches beneath summer shadows.
Cherry. Elm. Sycamore. We spread our chenille
blankets across grass, pressed radios to our ears,
mouthing the old words, then loosened
thin bikini straps and rubbed baby oil with iodine
across sunburned shoulders, tossing a glance
through the chain link at an improbable world.
I know it makes me somewhat weird, but I have loved poetry since elementary school, so I sometimes feel the need to pass them along. It is my blog after all, a sort of online journal, so consider this poem something I scribbled into my journal because it's summer, and it whispers of a life I once lived.