Jersey Shore 1950s

 By Irv Cantor

Ocean waves wrap around
thin would-have-been-tree trunks,
painted red, white and blue
connected by hemp ropes.
Old women hold tightly
and turn their sides to the foam.

Mustard or ketchup on pretzel rods
in the boardwalk snack shack.
Running with high steps
because the hot sand burns.

The shame of being held high,
the lifeguard's strong hands
under my armpits.
The whistle hurts my ears
as mothers all around look up and away.
Then my mother's voice.

Warnings of jellyfish
keep us towel-bound.
My mother stays on her lounge chair,
doing her cross-stitch tablecloth.
I wait for the breezes
until I can go in.

The boards are so hot
and threaten splinters if you run.
Quickly turn the lever,
wash off the sand,
cool my stinging foot bottoms.

Benches made of white concrete verticals
and horizontal green two by fours.
Resting my feet on metal rails
looking out, saying goodbye to the ocean.
Storm clouds in the distance.
Remember the story,
the lightning bolt that struck the rail
and burned someone miles away.

The car door opens,
the interior exhales a hot blast.
A towel keeps my thighs from vinyl.
Quickly, open all the windows.
The car moves and the cooler wind refreshes.