It was the summer of a long pink skirt, ice cream cones, cartwheels on the beach, waitress shifts followed by late nights at the bar followed by breakfast at the diner, a little rented room and a refrigerator shared with twelve other girls. This was Cape Cod, a long time ago, and my buddies Doc and RJ and Stu would descend on weekends. After we walked back from the bar I’d hold the back door open for them and they’d sneak upstairs to my room (guests weren’t allowed) to sleep on the floor around my bed. One weekend they brought a new boy with them, someone I’d never met, and I instantly liked him. That night we all decided to sleep on the beach instead of sneaking into my room. We spread quilts and looked up at the stars, waves lapping at the shore.
The new boy and I were next to each other. RJ and Doc and Stu all fell asleep but I was too aware of the boy, and he was too aware of me. I was shy that way and he must have been too, because we lay motionless on the sand, not touching, not sleeping. Hours passed. Toward dawn I turned on my side and my foot touched his, and silently he reached out and pulled me into his arms and curled his body around mine. We fell asleep, our friends around us, and when we woke up in the morning there he was, smiling at me. The poem below brought that lovely memory washing back over me. It reminds me, in these days of justified anger and pain, how much sweetness there can be between a girl and a boy, a woman and a man.
Perseids, Later, by Veronica Patterson
A tease of clouds intermits
the searing blueblack. Cicadas
drone in a 3 a.m. silence
and I fall back
onto an Army blanket, 1956,
a meadow outside Ithaca, lying with sister
and brother, in the grip of fierce
dreams and longings, my skin
alive with up,
drawn to the studded dark, whose
tiny burns might be those of a sparkler
twirled too fast.
This night, as you sleep inside,
I lift binoculars to contain
these pricking lights, which
and still pull me
to them. Your dream wafts from the house,
a stay. In waning heat, in my thin
nightshirt, I feel
the years accordion,
and I shiver. Each of us
gets to be vast sometime. Three
of a star-glazed strand
of my hair. How can the birds sleep
in this confetti of light.
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