“’06”

I met my first girlfriend at the beach
I know it sounds kind of sketchy,
but there was nothing more pure, to me,
than watching her lay out her towel, just so,
and line up her sandals, just so,
and hang her bag on the back of her chair
and put on her suntan lotion

She took down the straps of her swimsuit,
right, so she wouldn’t get a tan line,
and in that moment
heaven was a collarbone and
freckled shoulders and
sun glinting off the dip at the base of her throat

Mind you, there I was,
planted in the middle of the beach like some demented Frisbee,
dressed in some frumpy-ass bathing suit,
staring at this girl I don’t even know —

but the middle of the beach
isn’t really a great place
to have a quarter-life crisis,
so when some kid’s volleyball smacks me in the ear,
I guess I was asking for it
It didn’t hurt, really,
but guess who jumped up to help this damsel in distress?
My knight in a yellow two-piece

So, one ice pack and two Jim Dandys later,
we were laughing and flirting,
and my salty hair seemed way less important
than her smile, and her soft hands,
and the phone number she scribbled, in eyeliner, on my napkin

I’ve never had a better summer
She reminded me why I used to love summertime so much —
back when June meant freedom
and August was like some last-ditch effort
to do something worth talking about back at school
Her kind of summer was, like, church-pure:

One that meant going barefoot on a brick patio,
looking like a million bucks in a new swimsuit
with a color-coordinated Popsicle

Or one that meant learning
how to pop wheelies from your older brothers
to impress that cute kid down the block

She preached the sort of summer where
hose-water was magic
and your neighbor’s lawn sprinkler
was better than the water park
and “borrowing” your cousin’s Green Day album
was the most daring thing you’d ever done

I don’t even know why it all felt so nostalgic —
my childhood summers definitely didn’t include
swigging rum out of a water bottle
and getting acquainted with the bed of her pickup truck

But that’s just how it felt,
so it was a tragic double-blow when her ultimatum
came with the first tinges of red on the treetops

It wasn’t really either of our faults —
different lives, different friends,
and fall semester hanging over our heads
like some fifteen-credit guillotine

And, for summer love, I guess it was nice
She was, you know, awesome, in more ways than one —
and even to this day, I miss her, a little
Whenever I see a lawn sprinkler, or
hear the ice cream man, or
watch kids ride bikes down the street —

I find my mind drifting
back to a summer of
first love and Jim Dandys,
and the girl who made it all possible

Author’s Note:

This poem began as an ode to summer, but grew beyond those confines to a larger statement about growing up and about love. Though fictional, a lot of the images here remind me of my own childhood summers, or perhaps of imagined, nostalgic pasts.

I first performed this piece at the 818 show in Albany, New York in the summer of 2010. It went over well, and I enjoyed the energy and pace of the poem.

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