Grade A: The Crowd

Written in Albuquerque (Mesa SE), August 2002.  Henry Dieterich posted this old photo from Ferry Beach, a Unitarian camp in Saco ME, on his Website and it brought this meditation on bygone times and people.  Besides Henry, those whose names I could recall are my girlfriend at the time, Cammy Peters, whom Henry also loved;  Betsy Gifford, whom I later dropped Cammy for (“the first girl I said ‘I love you’ to”), Kitty Warner and Lisa Harris.  Orange soda with chocolate ice cream was called a Ralph.  Published in my books If I Could Be the Stone and Wings of the Gray Moon.

The Crowd


It’s been what, thirtyfour years

since I’ve seen this photo?

Thirtyseven since it was taken.

Ten children on a beach in Maine

including me, my soon-to-be

best friend, the first girl I

said “I love you” to.  (Lying

out of ignorance.)  Henry is so

worked up to be next to Cammy,

it makes him look peaceful

& poised.  Cammy is inured to being

photographed & looks unreal.

I’m playacting, so I look

like I know who I am.  Lisa,

the only one who detects the

high tide of sex advancing

up the beach, stands contrapposto.

Kitty & Betsy kneel, the one with

a flippant grace, the other simply

trying to have a physical body.

I’m dismayed I can’t remember

half our names, & thrown by

our naked weeness:  everything

about those couple weeks was huge:

all the shouts with tears in them,

the winking plots, glib treasons,

kisses so despairing they were

angry, cold firelit stares;

not to mention the oxygen

of jest we breathed, spy novels,

Henry’s twig fife more carrying

than ocean roar, orange soda

with chocolate ice cream.

Nor is the gianthood

of any of it gone

even now, but it exists

to scale.  I haven’t left the kid

in this picture behind,

I’ve caked up around him,

a shelled sand-sprawler.

The thing that makes him tinier is

he can’t see me.