Maggie Rainey-Smith

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That summer

our legs stretching
and we are freckled
brown, adjusting our
elegant fingers


our skin like fresh
linen peeling back
and back until
we are unmade


our hair rinsed in
beer and the ocean
sprayed, teased,
thick with possibility


our foreheads stained
afresh each morning
from the press of
plastic curlers



our togs rolled and
folded in towels
and then stowed on
the back of our bikes


as we ride to the river
to the school baths
and home again
our cheeks radiant


and radiant still, as
we stand to pedal
on the uphill gradient
our ankles catching


downhill, no hands
and the slick of oil
when our foot slips
and the chain flicks


our knees grazed
by the river stones
and the gravel stuck
to our shiny skin


our lips swollen with
sunlight, dribbling with
the juice of berries
and burned too


our hopes highest
at the dance on
Saturdays with our
scorched skin


our hearts unafraid
ready and yet too
unsteady, delighted
by their own loud beating


our bodies bathed
in coconut oil before
we knew better,
before, before


before you fell, yes,
we used to say that
fell pregnant and claimed
you’d barely had sex



I was envious; now you
knew more than I did
and he was an older man
practically twenty-three


and you married him
at the local church
dressed all in white
in spite of the bump


we feted you at the
sports hall at the
bottom of the road
with a band and booze


and my brother that
night took his own life
after your wedding
but not because of it


now we’re grandmothers
with river stones and
gravel in our hearts;
age marking stigmata


knowing more than we
ever imagined and
less, too, far less
than we dreamed of
at those dances
by the river
picking berries
fishing from rocks
at the switchbacks
on the way to school
in our Panama hats
your bike brighter
than mine
both bikes
arms folded
our streets
Waverley Street

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