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