Old Orchard Beach, 1962

by Myke Leavitt

Carnie bells and barker noise
drip with the promised sin
of popcorn-cotton-candy,
and merry-go-round tilt-a-whirls
spinning peals of laughter
and little big-girl screams.
The Quebecois and brazen tarts
speaking French along the pier,
babble queued up and keyed
with pennies in hand,
two minutes of delicious fear
squeezed out in golden heartbeat
rings and chimes.

The salt air sticks to belly
skin and nipple peek, leering eyes
lusting for Japanese plastic dolls
and kewpie pies, booty spilled
and plied with whiskey-beer
and lipstick soda pop for the kids.
Mother snapping pictures in bellowed
camera frames as the old man hollers.
We jump at his command, holding hands
under sparkling lights popping beneath
the rooftops in colored zip-zapping:
To enter here, the line starts here.

Our calliope eyes dizzy,
spinning and bumping, jostling
for the front of the line, fingers
tight around the next ten cents
extorted from our mother,
The tar walk oozes frosting warm
with pebbles and spit-out gum.
Gulls scream and shit . . .
French fries drown in white vinegar
as the lifeguards hold swim trunk court,
jostling and fondling smiles.
Women twittering and babies crying,
diapers dumped in sand
as the ocean laps at castles
abandoned by children dragged home in cars,
fathers swearing and mothers cursing,
and my siblings begging: more!

With a Jesus-Christ-you-fucking-kids,
my father doles out nickels
for our one last promised ride.
My brother drives the bumper cars
as my sisters straddle painted horses
who have their feet nailed
to sticky candy-flecked floor,
and I-the-oldest told to watch them
as my father darts beneath
a bar sign glaring at the street:
To enter here, the line starts here
and the tickets spit out in ones and threes,
with one left out, and one left over.