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Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




Gray as prune-whip
or salt grains mined
under the cities of Michigan,
the sand was carried in,
from the first load
a falsification, a mime
of seascape, the old lake
green as lettuce.

Coins here, buckles
of swim caps, scraps
detected as knickknacks
of jogged memory,
steam on the tracks
and slim women in skirts
white to the ankle,
their men in shirts pocked
by cinders, grit of ash,
their cuffs rolled.

Too soon "Mother!"
a child called, his toe
gripped by water.
I feel the cold,
have unearthed layers
under the last truck delivery,
everything tumbled, raked,
even the soil where they lay,
two and two, surfacing
with its beach grass
and marshmallow twigs,
the coals of dead fires.

We came later, graduated
and bleached, to strip
in the bathhouse reek
of damp suits, dalliance
again at Moon's, lifeguards
in their muscles and cork hats
crooning through megaphones
like Rudy Vallee,
or whistling at those
who ignored the rope barriers
and anchored oil drums
to crawl out like Australians too far.

If I were to go back
now to the sodded
frontage and boathouse leaning
pegleg on its stanchions,
I would find, this late age,
the right-of-way weed-grown
and blue with the stars of chicory,
the jackstraw cottages
tilting toward shore
like parched herds at a waterhole,
Moon's Resort less
a memory than an incantation
for the salt licks and hidden
cities of Michigan,
wing-collars and cartwheels,
other lovers.
These lines are for those
who ignored the whistle,
swam out, and were carried away.


© by E.G. Burrows



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