January 28, 2020

Born and Raised

Swampscott, Scituate, Cotuit —
ragged towns on rugged coast
softened by the sun.

Ocean tides and noontime whistles
measured summer’s taffy days,
nighttime crickets’ legs rubbed love songs,
sunburns flaking under sheets.

Milton, Mashpee, Mattapan —
my grandfather’s cigar butt
clamped between his yellow teeth
swimming out toward the horizon
in a cap crisped stiff by hot Julys,
gentle jellyfish in current
bubbled up from somewhere sweet.

Dennis, Sandwich, Harwich Port —
Ray Charles could not stop loving me
mellow from the snack bar
on a breeze of something fried,
my name spelled out in scallop shells,
mother knitting in a beach chair
next year’s sweater on her lap.

Plymouth, Falmouth, Yarmouth Port —
pleated plaids replacing swimsuits
on the metal rounder racks at Zayre’s,
August folding up its beachhead,
towel ready for the wash,
I pressed my body to its striping,
not ready to rinse off the salt.

Paula Rudnick is a former television writer and producer who has worked the past 30 years as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations.