Summer Vacation

1968, the year of the assassins,

We have come to the lake

Where speedboats crush the waves.

As the sun sets, the water-traffic

Dwindles until it ceases all together,

And the wavelets become calmer

And quiet with each passing hour

Until we fall asleep in our shore-side

Cottages, and the lake completely stills

And becomes a mirror

For Ophiuchus , the celestial snake handler.


I was eight years old, going on nine.

I am 53 now.  It stuns me.  I keep saying this.

Decades go by like months. 

Though she has been dead 20 years,

I talked to my mother in a dream.

I sat with her.  People walked right in

And acted like they didn’t see us.

They used our furniture.  They played cards.

“Your father is at his place,” she said.

“He is no longer with you?” I asked.


I find my father at his place

And he is soaking in a whirlpool bath.

His place has everything:  a doctor’s

Office—the doctor is out—and a cafeteria

That doubles sometimes as a fruit

And vegetable market.  It’s amazing.


I ask my father if he is happy,

But he just shrugs and slumps

Down into his bath.  “Is it important?”

He asks.


When I was eight and at the lake,

A girl my age took my hand

And led me down to her part of the beach.

I touched her skin and made

Small buildings from wet sand.

Hours passed.  Naturally, my mom

Thought I had drowned,

And when she found me she was trembling

And furious.  The girl’s father

Assured my mother that I was

A real gentleman.

My mother’s anger withered me.

My father teased me about

My new girlfriend.  It was her

Family’s last day at the lake

And I never saw them again.


My sister protested that I should

Have secured the little girl’s address

And kept in touch.  A day passed

And my mother seemed normal again.

I rode my bicycle on the roads

That edged the whispering bay.


There is no way to end this, and life

Is clearly one ridiculous thing

After another.  Sometimes, I feel

People look at me and expect

Some kind of miracle.  Why would

They expect that?  Obviously,

Nothing is going to happen.


The miracle is we each live a story

That really isn’t about us at all.

Just now a person walked in

And looked all up and down

For someone else who obviously

Wasn’t there.  That’s your basic plot line.

It seems to work for everything.