Every July, my wife’s extended family spends a week at the beach.
Twenty-five or thirty of us travel from all around the country (and the world) to lodge in a huge beach house a block from the Atlantic Ocean. The days lack structure, but for all-family dinner each night. Each family takes a turn cooking dinner and serving the rest of the group. Dishwashing—in two machines and by hand—never ceases, it seems.
Many of us spend late mornings and early afternoons at the beach, sitting on low chairs twenty feet from where the waves wet the sand. Under blue and yellow umbrellas, we take naps, read novels, talk about what we’ve experienced since last year’s beach week. And of course, we run into the waves, offer our bravest attempts at boogie boarding, and bob in the cooly warm saltwater as we stare out toward the infinity of blue-greenish ocean.
One day, while I grazed on the fruit on the counter and made a lunch out of leftovers, my wife’s grandfather asked if I had written any poetry. He’s written short stories, a book, and countless documents of ideas over the years. Before the week was over, he challenged me, let us each write a poem and get someone else’s feedback on it.
I took him up on it, and the next night jotted down a few lines before I fell asleep. The few lines turned into a few stanzas, and a couple days later I shared it with one of my cousins, who offered layers of interpretation and possible tweaks to finish the poem.
Here’s what we came up with. Maybe you’ll find a layer or two of meaning in it as well.
“Breeze” — a poem
Did you ever think you would
feel so sorely ready
for that summer breeze
that whipped up dust and grass clippings
the day you packed your books and trinkets
and all the extra notepads
with your name next to theirs
(too many notepads to just throw away),
and you walked out the doors
that used to unlock with your badge,
back when you had one?
Bid adieu to any morsel
of future memories you believed about
your contribution to the cause,
like a volcanic island:
molten core spewing,
relegated to slip down the rough mountainside
into the ocean—
that kind of contribution?
did you expect it to turn out
well after you spoke your mind
at the team lunch
and everyone was silent?
There’s not enough vinaigrette to
cover the wilted arugula and sour tomatoes,
let alone your expired belonging.
But you are less concerned
because you feel it again,
that summer breeze,
too hot to befriend—
where will it carry dry leaves
when summer is gone?
Thoughts? Share your comment below.