Sunday, February 01, 2004

Memories of Beaches

Originally written sometime between November, 1978, and November, 1979, this selection reflects on my summer in Princeton, NJ.
The beach at Asbury Park, NJ, is cluttered with litter and people when the weather is warm; you coat yourself with lotion, hoping you won't get burned.

One section of the beach, almost a mile long, is roped off. It costs a dollar, you see, to be touched by the chilly salt water. Policemen in blue patrol the waves to be sure you don't get a free splash. Their harsh whistles yell at you from the spintered boardwalk, if you should go near the tempting water.

Orange Juice, to sooth your sandy throat, costs fifty cents. Pinball, carny games, gambling casinos, and cheap bars look down at the long rows of smooth black rocks which lead into the water.

I watched Suzanna's bare back noiselessly sway with her sleepy breathing. How it glistened with Coppertone, there under the clear ocean sky! She did not know of my gaze, but it would not have troubled her. For, she had a love, and I had a love.

This way, we could be innocent, like the dusty ocean.

Shipbottom, NJ, was still cold in April when we drove there after Jenni's senior prom. It was my first ocean. I ran into it, freezing my cracked leather shoes.

The waves & the gulls sang to us as we huddled close in an old sleeping bag. Jenni's smooth, warm tongue seemed to sleep in my mouth all night.

We woke to a pink and purple sunrise, then searched the white sand for a perfect shell, while hugging each other under a calico quilt.

As we drove home, we assured ourselves we'd string the shells into a daisy-chain, or paste them in a sea-worthy collage. We assured ourselves that our love was certain & vast as the ocean, &c.

Melissa and Drew laughed as each other, then fell asleep in each others' arms as Jenni and I sang our way back to the peacefull fountains of Princeton.

There's a lighthouse on Beacon Point which stands guard over the rising pink moon. Our group drank hot licorice Pernod as some girl sang lost love songs.

Somehow, it seems the whole beach was singing, even the waves, that night so long ago. That night, so soon before Jenni and I broke up.

It was a happy party. I sang, too, with my rough guitar. Jenni saw the shadow of one of her English cousins in a jubilant red-bearded man.

Jenni and I slept in the crevice of a soft green dune. We tried to make love, but the time wasn't with us. I tell you, screwing on the beach sounds romantic, until you encounter the sand. Later, we were awakened — naked — by a young boy seeking his lost dog.

But he couldn't see our soft slender bodies, warm against each other, hidden as they were by two familiar dusty sleeping bags.

We drove home in silence. Already, we had begun to travel by separate routes.

There are no beaches in Oklahoma, unless you count the circles of sand around the man-made lakes. You'll find no sea shells by this dark water.

No gulls, just ducks and geese. You must hide from the park police to sleep beside these whispering waters.

Once, Gary, Drew, and I drew pictures in the half-moist sand with long sticks. I wrote fictional love letters there, which were soon washed away.

That was years ago, before the long-chilled Princeton nights. Before I had seen the ocean. That sweet ocean, which taught me how to forget.

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