Growing up, we had a pool.
This guaranteed us friends
during dog days, kids diving
for pennies, singing along to
my sister’s transistor radio.
I learned to be graceful there.
Normally prone to clumsiness,
I glided like a siren on her way to
a gig tempting sailors who’d crash
their crafts on the rocks below.
Underwater, the mermaid learned
how to swim a full lap in one breath,
then two laps. But the best part was
dinner hour, when the kids got called
home and I had the pool to myself.
Dad worked hard and drank late,
so we’d eat whenever he drove in.
One afternoon, I lay face-down
on a long raft, hands grazing water
as one bothers timothy grass in the field.
No one called me in for supper.
Result? Even Black Irish, brown-eyed
girls get the occasional sunburn, but
this was a blistering, “degree” burn,
with ointments and aloe and sympathy.
As the burn dried and began to peel,
my sister Jo used her nails to scratch
a perfect heart on my back. This artwork
grossed out the kids, which was, of course,
© Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Karin Gustafson, hosting dverse today, wanted memories of summer. This one stuck with me for two reasons; first, my sisters took after my English father, blonde hair and blue eyes, and they burned easily, so my mother’s brown-eyed Irish heritage usually saved me from that fate. Second, the fact that my sister Jo would take so much time creating on my back made me feel special.
Also at my poetic kiddie pool, Poets United. Peace, Amy
Sixteen, never been sexed
Sipping pilsner pilfered from the basement fridge
Sssssh, out the back door
Stripping down to go skinny-dipping with… Johhhhhn
Time, place, the most potent of opportunities
We slip into steaming midnight summer water
His member more sumptuous than tight jeans ever hinted
My breasts afloat, begging to be bobbed for like juicy ripe apples
My ache, my throb – will he sense it,
and act on this rhythmically pulsing moonlit mystery
I always craved what was not mine for the taking
with gay boys
Today is the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement in New York City. Gay men had finally had enough of being beaten and sodomized by police; one man picked up a cobblestone in from of the Stonewall Bar and threw it, and calamity and justice began with that one brick. (I know some say that riots were technically in the wee hours of June 28, as the bars closed… but get real. Do you wake up from a hangover on a Sunday and say, “Wow, I really drank too much at 2 this morning?” It was very, very late the night before.)
So why this poem today? Because my very proud and OUT Best Friend Forever, John Bickle, with whom I share many skinny dips and much mischief in our early days, also celebrates his birthday today. He said, when he saw the TV reports of the Stonewall Riots, he thought to himself, “It’s an omen.”
No, Stonewall didn’t make him gay. God did.
But anyway, happy birthday to my BFF, and may you continue to play piano bar and wow Philadelphia for many years to come! (His usual gig is at Knock, so you Philly friends, get you butts over to their Piano Room and hear a phenomenal tenor – and great pianist!) Love, Amer