Fridays, too, I’d lie on a beach towel
within an umbrella’s flood-shadow
at the Marion Municipal Pool.
My mother chain-smoked in gray
hometown air, her uncoupling mind a field
of long division. I never swelled
with joy, never in the merry-go-round
of her arms. She commanded
the toddlers in the kiddie pool
to rest. I ate ice pops & pop rocks
with quarter Cokes & filled
the margins of green notebooks
with scrawls to identify
my inner constellations:
a maestro orchestrated fleas,
a wildflower time machine.
A jock pinned a kiss on a bikini
in the cerulean blue deep-end.
In the roped off swim lane
a geezer struggled to detach
a pair of flippers. From the opposite side
of the chain link fence Lenny Baker
jabbed a chick-o-stick into my shoulder.
I got dizzy under my mother’s sunburnt
face. Chlorinated waves popped
at my eardrums. What I know now is what
a child couldn’t understand,
how a mind’s lifetime recession happens
chemical-by-chemical, first in the face,
then all the way back. Translating sticks,
leaves, & mown grass into a wreath,
mother crowned me king, said
no honey, beautiful exhibitionist. You are
not falling. The world turns upside down.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 3.
See all items about Kevin Phan