August, 1980

August, 1980

Zoe Philippou

The only Summer my red-haired
mother was tan, not freckled,
not pained and peeling,
but goddess golden tan,
we moved the porch swing
back and forth too slowly
to part the air.
The hottest day gone too far.
Brittle grey planks
popped and creaked,
tongue in grove,
with the small shifts
of weight that carried us
teaspoons of distance,
forward and back,
nowhere at all.
Inhale and exhale.

She was breaking
the last of the pole runner
beans into wet newspaper
spread across her lap,
trying to save them.
Sandals kicked aside
the wooden kind she always wore,
like a Dutch girl, finger
over the cold water
crack in the world.
Feet resting heavy like badly chosen
skipping stones, cracked and scattered,
a dry creek bed that skinned
your knees and shins
if she curled up in bed with you
to say goodnight.
So she didn’t.
Kept them tight to the floor,
hushed you at a slant.

I laid my cheek against her arm
felt the slip of sweat and beach oils,
salt and coconut
though we had never
been to the sea,
closed my eyes on rattling thirsty
crows, saw shadow suns
behind my blind eyelids
and counted, lips shaping
the numbers, the tense and snap
of her shoulder under gilded skin.
Until she shrugged me off.
dirty cheeked and whiny
as a mosquito.

I knocked her glass
on purpose as I jumped
to go, spilling sweet tea and ice
over her stone toes.

Jody Burke-Kaiser