The Summer of Hearts

From Poetic Bloomings:

We all had to learn lessons throughout our lives, and the ones that had come the hardest seem to be the ones that stay with us the longest. Whether learning to ride a bike or learning to drive, learning the hard lessons of love or of life (and death), we all grow in the knowledge we attain. Raising our children was an education in itself! Write a poem about some kind of lesson you may have learned that one summer (or any season really!) Maybe we’ll learn a little something in the process!

I skim life. Seldom deeply engage the world beyond its surface. That’s somewhere along the spectrum of some mental/social dysfunction, but that’s neither here nor there. I suppose that to accept a legal evil, even as a child, is to be complicit. I grew up in a period of a great evil being–not simply allowed–The Law. Consider it as The Air–if it stinks you do not stop breathing, you ignore the smell. And if you ignore the smell
successfully, for you it ceases to exist. But this poem isn’t about that. Not really.

The Summer of Hearts

Nothing happened to me. I spent the summer in eastern Kentucky
rather than home in Tennessee. The world was in turmoil, I was
nineteen and a tabula rasa, half finished with college, invited
to seminar six summer weeks with people who weren’t like me.

Emerson, Melville, Hawthorne; Maria dried her incredible hair,
fanned on the grass like a black tablecloth; Stella talked and worlds
appeared like birds, each one feathered and loud, shy and hungry.
We listened to Bill Cosby and The Doors. We played Hearts for hours.

That was a summer of Vietnam. And Monterrey Pop–with Joplin,
Jimi Hendrix, The Who. There was Rock in our food and drink. Maria
ate daisies. The Beatles’ “Michelle” was song of the year. The U.S. tested
nuclear bombs in Nevada. A little brown bat invaded the dorm.

It was the year Ali refused the army. Smart boys and boys with money
evaded the draft by staying in school. I had never talked with a black
person; they were bipeds from an alien star. One of them that summer played
Hearts with ferocity, told a hundred stories, saved the world from little bats.

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