Archival Features, Poems

Molly Tenenbaum Afternoon Off

Some out riding, some on skates, some promenading
with strollers—“Take me for a ride in your car, car”
bumps to the offbeat, wheel gimpy.
The waves, blue and twinkling, scallop in mildly,
foam kitchy-cooing, music of milk kisses puckering, popping.

A day so bread-and-jam fine, so red-shovel fine
the kids dig holes and watch water fill them, dig holes
and watch water fill them. So golden-glow fine,
here at the end of the world, on a Friday,
playcalls dispersing, moms walking
elephant-style, blankets under one arm,
tote bags with sleeves dangling out the top
banging knees from the other.

Over there, a drift-stick upright in the sand.
Over there, a fat butt in blue dots.
Over there, farther, the silver-white ferries
putter like dreaming. Heads and cars, shiny as pins,
gleam to their green homes on the island.

I’m here on a bench, bike leaned at my knee,
my bag with its sunscreen and notebook,
small bottle, from home, of fresh water.

It’s a big treat when a sunny afternoon coincides with a few hours off to enjoy it. When I lived in West Seattle and the day fell in my lap like that, I used to bike out to Alki, along the path by the water. As I rode, I’d think about how lucky I was to live in such a place, to ride by trees, sand, and water, and about how rare these free sunny hours. I’d watch other people out enjoying the same afternoon, and think, how lovely that is, how silly we are, how hapless, still enjoying things—but why not? and what else?—when the world as we know it is probably ending. Although I’d sit on a bench until my water was gone and the evening cooled, I stopped the poem before that. A poet has control, at least, over something. (Molly Tenenbaum)

Molly Tenenbaum is the author of Now (Bear Star Press, 2007) and By a Thread (Van West & Co, 2000). A recipient of a 2009 Artist Trust Fellowship, she also plays Appalachian music and has two CDs: Instead of a Pony, and Goose and Gander. She teaches English at North Seattle Community College.