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by Lawrence Bush
from “Jewish Currents at the Beach,” 2010 Summer Supplement
I’m far from the beach, too far from the boardwalk,
hours removed from the roar of the waves.
Without it, I can’t shed the noise in my head.
Please, grant me some sun-and-sand days!
O, Long Beach! Those weeks with my brother and Mommy
in basement apartments, mildewed and dark.
What matter? We roasted in sunshine all day, parked
close to the tideline, and just a short walk
from the boardwalk arcades, ancient stone temples
where dimes brought possession of hefty Skeeballs.
Hop! Aim for the bullseye — four-fifty score!
Hop! Rolled up the middle, or banked off the walls!
Each Wednesday we crowded that boardwalk at dusk
for fireworks launched from a trawler offshore.
Until the finale we rallied there, Jews at prayer,
Oohing and ahhing in pleasure and awe.
In adulthood I learned that the Talmud (Kiddushin)
bids fathers to teach their sons swimming techniques
(perhaps so when thrown in a river we won’t be
too weak to escape our oppressors). However,
Never mind. So what if I never took pleasure
in swimming? I gathered up landlubber treasure
in pails. I lay on the hot sand and dug with my nails.
I walked around glancing at bathing-suit girls.
And I went in the water, of course! To wash off!
To pee and cavort! Duck under and snort!
I’d let the waves smack me around for a spell,
but soon I’d be back on the beach hunting shells . . .
Those days ran together like melting sandcastles.
The timelessness made us feel weightless, like clouds.
The endless horizon made worries seem distant.
The sun set behind us. Each moment was now.
O, holy mekhaye! — from Lido to Rockaway,
Venice to Monterey, Avon to Cape May.
Wherever I’ve stripped down and napped to the surf sounds,
mekhaye — keen pleasure — has swept me away.
in South Beach, Miami — mekhaye Latino!
in Wildwood, New Jersey — mekhaye Pokerino!
in Juan-les-Pins, south of France — nudist mekhaye!
Pleasures igniting me, driftwood on fire . . .
Enough with nostalgia, then. Pack it up. Let’s go.
Six hours of traffic and pit stops and Watch for cops!
We’re late! and Can’t wait! Then: Look, there’s the bay!
We’ll soon have our sun-and-sand days, hooray!
We’ll soon have our sun-and-sand days.
Lawrence Bush is editor of Jewish Currents and Jewdayo.