My Father Bought a Boat
a fifteen-foot runabout with an outboard motor
and red leather seats. He bought water skis, too,
and on weekends we drove to Lake Pontchartrain,
joined other boats darting through sluggish waves,
carving their Vâ€™s in thunderous beauty.
The sun glared. We circled for hours on the salty water,
waving to others doing the same. I was fourteen, hated
the sun, brought library books to erase the boredom.
That was the summer I knew failure. My father skied
without effort, crisscrossed the wake back and forth,
smiling, a bronzed god in his Speedo. I knew I could win
his heart if I skied like him, like a champion.
He climbed into the boat and we traded gear: life vest,
gloves, skis, ready. Time after time, he yelled
instructions from the back of the boat while my mother
drove. Time after time, I crouched, held my arms
straight, legs parallel, knees slightly bent. Each time,
just as I pulled up out of the water, just as I shifted
my weight to straighten my knees,
I fellâ€”plopâ€”right back on my butt. After an hour
of choking down water I signaled enough
and climbed back in the boat, sunburned and shamed.
I knew he was thinking: If only sheâ€™d been a boyâ€¦.
It echoed what I was thinking: If only Iâ€™d only been a boyâ€¦.
Southern women take car trips without maps
and enjoy getting lost.
Southern women take long detours
to finish listening to their audio books.
Southern women donâ€™t care if the candy melts
as long as itâ€™s chocolate.
Southern women wear make-up — or not
shave their legs — or not
and look in the mirror whenever they want
Hail to this messy morning! I wake early to wander a maze of city streets, stunned by sunrise, stroked by light streaking pink and gold across a shimmering sky. Housefuls of garbage slouch at the curb. Weeds poke through garden mulch. Polka-dot crocuses frolic through grass gone astray. Shocks of sorrel and sagebrush, chickweed and purslane burst into view. I glide by windows, see last nightâ€™s dishes dancing in the sink, newspapers strewn across breakfast tables: no order to this holy chaos called life – cluttered, uprooted, sinewed with nooks and crannies, cubbyholes, noisy secrets spilling from skeletoned closets, unruly minds, unbordered hearts, scattered wardrobe of feelings as blowsy as last weekâ€™s roses. I want to sing out loud, make never-before-heard sounds that launch planets and lure stars, shape and be shaped by the flotsam of day, dream-stuff of night, intimate shadows of first light. If I can keep this messy dawn wrapped around me, I can walk wild all day.
On the Beach
The waves roll in
each one a parable
telling infinite stories
we could hear them
if we listened
but this is the time
for paperback novels
for walking the dog
for sleeping in the sun