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Summer in a Small Town

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Yes, the young mothers are beautiful,
with all the self-acceptance of exhaustion,
still dazed from their great outpouring,
pushing their strollers along the public river walk.

And the day is also beautiful—the replica 19th-century paddle-wheeler
perpetually moored at the city wharf
                with its glassed-in bar and grill
for the lunch-and-cocktail-seekers
who come for the Mark Twain Happy Hour
which lasts as long as the Mississippi.

This is the kind of town where the rush hour traffic halts
                to let three wild turkeys cross the road,
and when the high school music teacher retires
after thirty years

the movie marquee says, “Thanks Mr. Biddleman!”
and the whole town comes to hear
                the tuba solos of old students.

Summer, when the living is easy
and we store up pleasure in our bodies
like fat, like Eskimos,
for the coming season of privation.

All August the Ferris wheel will turn
                           in the little amusement park,
and screaming teenage girls will jump into the river
with their clothes on,
right next to the No Swimming sign.

Trying to cool the heat inside the small towns
                                               of their bodies,
for which they have no words;
obedient to the voice inside which tells them,
“Now. Steal Pleasure.”
Source: Poetry (July/August 2009)

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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Summer in a Small Town

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