It’s only April, but already I’m thinking ahead to summer, to the days when the sun laps skin, when the need to do anything never enters my head. I suppose it’s the teacher in me that makes summer such a release. That and my memories of childhood. I feel lucky to have grown up in a time when hordes of children ranged free from morning until the first touch of night and never ran out of things to do.

I come from a fairly large family — I have 28 cousins — and in summer we always had family reunions. We sometimes gathered at Lake Ronkonkoma, a large freshwater lake in Suffolk County, New York, that was only about 20 miles from where I grew up. For my city cousins, though, Lake Ronkonkoma was decidedly country.

Everyone chipped in for a picnic lunch, so there were a variety of sandwiches, potato and macaroni salad, and, of course, Kool-Aaid for the kids to drink. I suspect the adults drank beer. I ran around with a plastic inner tube blown up around my waist since I wasn’t much of a swimmer. My strongest memory of the lake was the time I found a baby bat on the ground. Or, at the time I thought it was a baby, though now I realize it may have been full-grown. Fascinating, but the adults quickly whisked it away.

I wasn’t lucky enough to have relatives who had a summer cottage on a lake like Terry Godbey, though much of the feeling that she captures in her poem is familiar to me. Her maternal grandparents, Lester and Louise Clark of Belfast, owned a red cabin along the shore of Swan Lake, and spending time at the lake was the best part of her summer visits.

Terry says this poem was “an attempt to capture the pure sensory delight of every moment my family and I spent at Swan Lake when I was a girl. … The grown-ups played cards, and the kids ran wild. The water was cold even in August!”

Terry Godbey was born in Bangor and lived in Belfast until she was 2. Her dad was in the Air Force so they moved a lot. She currently lives in Orlando, but she says a part of her heart will always remain in Belfast and she visits every few years.

This poem is from Godbey’s book, “Beauty Lessons,” published by Quercus Review Press, 2010. Terry has also published three other books, most recently “Hold Still,” from Main Street Rag, 2014. Her poems have appeared in a variety of literary magazines, and her poem, “Produce Man,” won the 2008 Rita Dove Poetry Award, judged by Naomi Shihab Nye. She’s working on her fifth collection, tentatively titled “No Regrets.”

Summers at Swan Lake

Sunlight poured from a genie’s bottle,

painted the whirl of lanky limbs

scrambling for the water, the scumble

 

of rocks tipping us like sailboats,

the floating dock from which we dared

each other to leap, stunned, into the chill

 

and the motorboats whining like the bees

that always found our Popsicles.

Proud parasols of Queen Anne’s lace

 

and raspberries fuzzy as worn toothbrushes

grew wild against our wilder plunder.

Ice cubes crackled in tall glasses

 

of cola, the lobster rolls and potato chips

never ran out, our swimsuits never quite dried

and we never admitted to being tired

 

but at night the world fell away

like the day’s clothes, leaving us

to our small cabin, its windows open,

 

our lumpy beds, the soothing sound

of shuffling cards. We dropped

like stones into the quiet lake

 

of dreams, the voices and laughter

of the grown-ups sweeping through

the sleeping rooms.

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.

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