8.16.2009

Jewish Currents at the Beach

The gorgeous Jewish Currents summer supplement, "Jewish Currents at the Beach," is available for just $5 from POB 111, Accord, NY 12404. Or subscribe for $18 and receive it for free.



I live in the mountains, far from the pavement,
far from the fashions, the crowd, the moment.
There’s nothing I lack, nothing to foment
a feeling of dissatisfaction — except

I’m far from the beach, too far from the boardwalk,
hours removed from the roar of the waves.
Without it, I can’t shed the noise in my head.
Please, grant me some sun-and-sand days!

O, Long Beach! Those weeks with my brother and Mommy
in basement apartments, mildewed and dark.
What matter? We roasted in sunshine all day, parked
close to the tideline, and just a short walk

from the boardwalk arcades, ancient stone temples
where dimes brought possession of hefty Skeeballs.
Hop! Aim for the bullseye — four-fifty score!
Hop! Rolled up the middle, or banked off the walls!

Each Wednesday we crowded that boardwalk at dusk
for fireworks launched from a trawler offshore.
Until the finale we rallied there, Jews at prayer,
Oohing and ahhing in pleasure and awe.

In adulthood I learned that the Talmud (Kiddushin)
bids fathers to teach their sons swimming techniques
(perhaps so when thrown in a river we won’t be
too weak to escape our oppressors). However,

my father came only on weekends, which seemed right,
in light of his preoccupations and moods.
He’d arrive, smoke a while, then dive in and swim way,
way out — Dad! — in a hurry to leave us behind.

Never mind. So what if I never took pleasure
in swimming? I gathered up landlubber treasure
in pails. I lay on the hot sand and dug with my nails.
I walked around glancing at bathing-suit girls.

And I went in the water, of course! To wash off!
To pee and cavort! Duck under and snort!
I’d let the waves smack me around for a spell,
but soon I’d be back on the beach hunting shells . . .

Those days ran together like melting sandcastles.
The timelessness made us feel weightless, like clouds.
The endless horizon made worries seem distant.
The sun set behind us. Each moment was now.

O, holy mekhaye! — from Lido to Rockaway,
Venice to Monterey, Avon to Cape May.
Wherever I’ve stripped down and napped to the surf sounds,
mekhaye — keen pleasure — has swept me away.

From Palm Beach to Boynton to Boca to Deerfield
among those retirees, well-oiled and well-heeled;
at Cape Cod, where minke and humpback whales graze,
and LGBT’ers spend long, scrumptious days;

in South Beach, Miami — mekhaye Latino!
in Wildwood, New Jersey — mekhaye Pokerino!
in Juan-les-Pins, south of France — nudist mekhaye!
Pleasures igniting me, driftwood on fire . . .

Enough with nostalgia, then. Pack it up. Let’s go.
Six hours of traffic and pit stops and Watch for cops!
We’re late!
and Can’t wait! Then: Look, there’s the bay!
We’ll soon have our sun-and-sand days, hooray!
We’ll soon have our sun-and-sand days.

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