This poem was published in A Book of the Year 2017, the anthology of first place poems from the Poetry Society of Texas annual contests. Now that it’s July, when we’re steeped in Texas summer, it seems like a good time to share it with you. Plus, I just got home from spending a few days with my wonderful family, so I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. I hope “That Summer” takes you back to some of your favorite summer memories.
I sat on a threadbare pink towel
on top of the ice cream maker
my dad and grandfather
taking turns at the crank
slicing homegrown peaches
my fingers stained
from hammering black walnuts
on the anvil in the backyard
the skin of my palms raw
from gripping the rope swing
in the hackberry tree
my mom in shorts and sandals
a glass of iced tea
sweating in her hand
my brother eating
a smile of watermelon
juice dripping down his chin
lightning bugs blinking
a slow Morse code
hummingbirds in the trumpet vine
bare feet and dirty knees
and the voices of my family
hovering in a comforting cloud
I’d like to reach back
and catch that summer
in an empty pickle jar
poke holes in the lid
and keep it for a while
warm and safe in my hands
I was going to write the great American novel
and bake the great American pie.
I was going to rid my home of every piece of clutter,
every unnecessary item of clothing,
every duplicate ladle (because really,
how many ladles does a person need?).
I was going to learn to sew
and learn to sing
and learn twenty new ways to cure the hiccups.
I was going to wash the windows and the dog
and find out, once and for all, what that one weird
vacuum attachment is really for
(because I’ve only ever used it to reach
behind the fridge for the magnet that fell off).
I was going to clean behind the fridge.
I was going to clean under the fridge.
I was going to buy a new fridge
and new fridge magnets
and rearrange them daily
to see if my husband noticed.
I was finally going to exercise.
And organize my computer files.
I sit here
with my eyes
and my face
toward the sun
the last time