Sky Lake Redux
Locked in the hothouse--my steamy, salt-air
Neighborhood crayoned with hibiscus, each blossom's
Red stalk aiming its pollen-beaded headdress
Toward the sun--all of us knew which of our fellow
Alpha classmates had become pregnant, though no
Impromptu blooms would blaze to meet the light.
On my last Miami visit, my childhood
House was lost in a tangle of tropical greenery.
Stepping out of his pickup, the owner, whose
Fix-flip M.O. had not worked, admitted foreclosure.
Later, on Zillow, I wandered the shell of my vacant
House--the kitchen sleek with its brushed-steel fridge
And black-flecked granite, the pool pale sky-blue,
The patio stone recast a ruddy sunburn pink.
Photo of my youth: on fire from napalm, a naked
Vietnamese girl sprinting, shrieking, as she fled
Her countrymen's blast. At home, two-inch palmetto bugs
Ate crayons stashed in a shoe box bumping colored paper
And pencils in a closet, burst into a psychedelic mess
Whenever I thwacked one with a shoe. One time a friend
Barreled out of her house in only a T-shirt. Bad mescaline.
For the girls in my circle, earning A after A was a given,
Our engines vrooming even in the hours allotted
To lazing at Haulover Beach, a half dozen concert venues,
Discount Records, Greynolds Park. We had to get out.
One girl, ahead of us, Marxist romantic, alighted in
Berkeley, tutored prisoners with her boyfriend, founding
Soldier with the Symbionese Liberation Army. Sign-off
On its missives: "Death to the fascist insect that preys
Upon the life of the people." She escaped, fading
Into the rain in England, soon after the first murder--
Oakland school superintendent--but before bank heists
And that machine-gun, stuff-into-the-trunk abduction
Of blindfolded heiress Patty Hearst, nineteen. Behind us,
Another girl, only three during the year of the napalm
Girl and whose yard slid down to the glinty lake,
Rose to the top of a corporation, asks parents to praise
Daughters for leadership skills, urges women to gather
In circles, build themselves a bigger box--lean in.
As kids--propped up on our elbows beside the murky
Edge of the lake, with our toes combing the chopped
Grass and the humidity pressed against us--we thought
We could pilot our afternoons as if they were float toys.
Steeped in the greenness, oversoaked by the gleamy
Heat of the sun, we monitored limb buds erupting
On tadpoles, clouds of them wriggling among the weeds.
Copyright © 2017 Michele Wolf. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.
Michele Wolf is the author of Immersion, Conversations During Sleep (Anhinga Prize for Poetry) and a chapbook, The Keeper of Light. She teaches at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland.