My one memory of summer with family
returns like a migrating bird to the tree of me.
A bird returns to the tree of me
on its way north, toward Yosemite.
Twisting mountain road toward Yosemite.
I was seven. The ocean heaved out of me.
The ocean heaved. Dad eased our camper truck down.
Riverbank down a side road, thick with pine trees.
Pines thick, forming walls, water a fabric skein.
Sun shone through loose strands, sparkled through the weave.
Sun pulled loose as it sparkled through the weave.
The lake laughed, weightless and glittering.
Weightless, the lake glittered as we both laughed—
my one memory of summer with family.
The title of “Where Everything Gets Unraveled Just Right” is from Ashbery’s poem “From Palookaville” in his poetry collection Hotel Lautréamont. The stanza which includes this line vacillates in focus from a locale too ideal to be real and darker undertones which curl along its edges. The opening line in Ashbery’s poem, “The midgets stand on giants who stand on midgets,” sets this tonal see-saw rocking—illusion atop reality (giants who stand stop midgets) and unrewarded expectations atop illusion (midgets standing on giants). Someone could argue convincingly that the order should be reversed—the combined weight of illusion and unrewarded expectations bear down on the midget of reality underneath. Either outlook depends on how far June Cleaver’s high heels dig into her husband Ozzie’s back while the Cleaver kids balance precariously over her shoulders.
My mom wore soft-soled Minnetonka moccasins when I was growing up—sensible and maybe easier on my dad’s back, especially with my brother and me balanced on her shoulders. She wore them when we took our first stab at The Great Summer Vacation: a trek through Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks in Central California. The mishap in the poem happened early, barely on the outskirts of Sequoia. I don’t know whether it was the newness of the trip or another family nearby, having the fun we were hoping soon to have ourselves, which made the river stand out. Maybe the river really laughed, overflowing with cheer.
is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State
University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review,
Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, Gleam: Journal of the Cadralor,
MacQueen’s Quinterly, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook,
Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was
published in February 2021 by Tebor Bach.
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