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.
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.