Red’s the color of my imagination. Red must’ve been the cottage and red the candy store to which—in the hour between beer and supper, or sun and none—they took me. Held me by the hand and steered me, then spoke with Jim McCarthy’s son about the season, the walleye, the lake, the war. I must’ve been no more than four, my hair a swirl of blond, almost a girl’s. I remember their memories only, the way their faces dropped later just thinking about it: Ontario and games of euchre, Ontario when Grandpa was alive, and sometimes the fish were as long as a man’s arm. And sometimes Beaver Lake was stiller than glass and they swam. They leapt from the dock in pairs and swam until their arms grew tired and would swim no more that day. It never rained in Ontario in 1969 (it never rains in remembering) and so they draped their bathing suits on the line and never told each other how happy they were. They never said we shall remember this day one day. Joy’s a momentary thing, and memory’s worse.
I have to make the scene myself and the stories that spring from it. I have to suppose that my grandmother woke up first and put the coffee on, and that she wore a robe with blue and yellow moons. I have to suppose that my grandfather woke up next, and with a mug of coffee checked the lures and the lines, the reels, and wiped the dew from the outboard motor. I have to make for myself the sun slanting through the kitchen window and hints of wind from the west. I have to bring to you the dragonflies that danced on the lake in the morning and give them colors, too, bright green and bronze, and pale blue. I must make the history I barely lived, and wait on a stool in the kitchen while the others wake up: my mother and father, Sally and Paul and my cousins, rubbing their eyes and asking of the weather or if anybody’d seen a morning paper. What was Nixon doing in America and did it matter? I have to do this because you’re drifting through the other world or dreaming of me here, but far from me. So few of us are left, it seems—so few to tell what was or might’ve been.
Look across the lake this morning. Rumors of pike are swirling like actual pike until there is no difference, and we are fully in the moment now. Breakfast is coming together: fried eggs in butter, a hundred slices of toast, and sausage patties. It is 1969 and we are hungry—we are checking if our bathing suits are dry and already imagining late afternoon. Someone’s dumping the last of the ice into the cooler where the beer will be; someone’s making ham-salad sandwiches; someone’s already on the dock and tossing a line in. That’s my cousin Paula, catcher of blue-gill, lithe and graceful; you can see her brown one-piece with the many stripes; you can see her patience and her as an adult. You can see the future if you look hard enough: Vietnam a wash then lost, my grandfather dead, my father dead, the world spinning in infinity-disease. But for a while all was well. For a while we found ourselves in Canada, no one had any doubts about tomorrow, and I sucked sour candy while they played cards and didn’t think too much about the world.
About The Author
Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His writing has appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.
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