Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Maybe It Was Summer

Maybe I was in love. Maybe Summer Crush was a blush
I wore to complement chlorine streaks in my hair.

It was the year the toddler drowned in our town’s sweet
little creek. Or it was the year after, when the little-girl-

panties were found in a teacher’s coat pocket.
There were whispers among the grown-ups,

or the children dreamed of empty swings, pushed
by a blood-rush breeze. It might have been the season

of coffee ice cream and clove cigarettes. Maybe the smoke
seasicked my gut like a crush. Maybe there was a boy

and two girls. I know I was always the third
body, the one not being touched. Maybe invisibility

is a power, but it felt more like a curse. There may
have been a man camped on the banks of the creek,

beard dreaded and burred. He might have fought
in Vietnam, but it might have been Iraq. Maybe it was June,

and we were told to stay away from him. No,
it was Independence Day and there were gunshots

in the abandoned building. Maybe it had been empty
for centuries. Maybe we mirrored in those windows,

or perhaps that was us in the dust, passing a clove cigarette
back and forth. Maybe they never found his body

or maybe he left town. Maybe I can’t turn on the lamp
of what happened without illuminating everything

that could have. The lamp was my torso, batman-stamped
to his window. The night above his bed was heavy

with my wanting and he slept little, and then less.
Maybe he was helplessly out of love and I was heartless.

Maybe all I really loved was the space between two people.
Maybe all I wanted to feel was how it shrank. It might have

been the decade of war in a distant country. Or a decade later
when the war was not so distant, but felt no closer

than before. It was the era of wildfire. It was the age of oil
in the estuary. Maybe it doesn’t matter if it was grease

or soot. The birds were snared in something slick
and patent-black. Maybe it wasn’t summer proper,

but the September sibling that flares before the leaves
begin to fall. Maybe the huckleberries were ripe

or maybe sicksweet. Maybe they were plump
as ticks and I burst them between my thumb and finger

one by one. There was the wind of rust
or the wind of slaughter. There was a sickle

moon, a harvest moon. I think I saw a sodden sun
and a glass-float moon, bobbing on opposite horizons.

Maybe this is about scale and how we shrink entire worlds
to background until we become the star. Maybe the sun

had set already into a lacquered sea, beach fires
scooping out the night, the dark packed hard between them.

Maybe the dark between was dense enough to scald,
and the glow, like a bioluminescent lure, reminded me

of warmth, but wasn’t warm at all.
Maybe it made me colder.  

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