Poetry

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Summer Pleasures

by Lionel E. Deimel

 

Summer sunSummer swimming in the big park pool 

Taking trips with parents to distant destinations

Playing pickup baseball games on park playgrounds

Swinging slowly in the hammock reading my cousin’s comic books

Creating clubs with my favorite friends

Researching rockets to make our own miniature missiles

Exploring exotic corners of my grandparents’ small, sleepy town

Walking through the woods to find the berry bushes

Leaning over the ledge to watch the splashing sea lions at the zoo

Playing tag at church picnics after arriving by bus

Pausing on the porch of the main camp building to smell a summer shower

Walking across the wooden floors of Woolworth’s while listening to the streetcar sounds outside

Arriving at the air-conditioned cobbler’s shop and buying an ice-cold Coke

 

This poem is completely autobiographical, incorporating some of my fondest childhood memories of summertime. It is likely more meaningful to me than to anyone else, but perhaps it can also evoke memories for the reader.

A few notes of explanation and reflection: I am surprised that so few of these memories are “intellectual,” though I do have a vivid memory of reading Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and collecting note cards of vocabulary words. (I still have the cards and have not yet learned all the words. I drove my friends at church camp nuts with my obsession to know all words in the book!)

I grew up in New Orleans, so many of my summer memories are urban or suburban. New Orleans has two fabulous parks—one of which houses a zoo—and they were very special places. Downtown was also very special, with its wide, white terrazzo sidewalks on either side of Canal Street, streetcars on the neutral ground (median), and seemingly endless rows of stores. F.W. Woolworth had two stores on Canal Street in the 50s, one of which was a holdover from a bygone era: it had wooden floors when virtually every store had tile, terrazzo, or carpeted floors. In a small alley a block or two from Canal Street was a shoe repair shop I visited often with my mother. It was notable for a gigantic shoe outside the shop, a black-and-white man’s shoe that was perhaps four feet long. On even the hottest days, the shop, smelling of shoe polish, was very cold. It sported an ancient, red drink machine that required pushing a lever to obtain a 6-1/2 oz. bottle of Coca-Cola. Like the shop, the drinks were very cold. No Coke ever tasted as good as one from that shop on a hot summer’s day. An even more wonderful memory, however, was standing on the wide porch of Silliman College, in Clinton, Louisiana, then a Presbyterian Church camp, during the frequent summer rainstorms. Silliman was founded in 1850, and the main building—apparently still in existence—was a fine example of antebellum architecture that once served as a Confederate hospital.

I wrote this poem on  8/15/2002 and made a minor revision on 12/14/2002. I revised the poem again on 2/17/2005, after my writing group insisted that the poem was indeed evocative, if technically imperfect. I usually punctuate my poems very carefully. This one, however, is simply a list, so I included no punctuation beyond the necessary hyphens and apostrophes.

— LED 8/16/2006

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