Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Barlow, Lake Barlow

I don’t remember wearing underwear at all.
Wet bathing suits, like birthday suits dried on the lines of our bodies.
Drink in those long summer days … on the house... plenty to go around.
Soap at the end of the dock, one bar…
dropped so many times, the sand dried into layers of scratchy permanence.
We exfoliated before any of us knew what it was.
Raft tag and races, belly flops, and nose fulls,
Sailboat, rowboat, motorboat and skis.

Barefoot at waters' edge, high step through snake grass.
Snap perforated pieces apart for hollow, makeshift smokes,
"gotta let it hang like this," from the corner of moist lips.
Embrace the hunt for turtles, frogs, crayfish, and bluegills who loved mother’s pancakes and somehow knew the barbs had been filed down by a woman who was tired and smart.

Race up the hill, in flip flops called thongs, held on tight with your toes.
Lose yourself in mirrored rows of towering pines.
let the smell capture every breath in wonder,
look up and listen to their songs.  Sway with them… for a while.
("Grandpa and mom planted those you know, each one… 80 acres.")
Decades of history shed as cushions, softly crunching beneath every step.

“Run, crawl under the cottage, find a 2 by 4,”
 nail it to a tree and scrawl “Welcome to Tiny Town”…
(it should have read “welcome to your sisters’ imaginations”)
“Run, go get the blankets!”  Throw them over jackknife cut clotheslines tied between trees, stretched out and held down by heavy rocks hauled from the lake.
"We need more rocks!"
Skip along paths raked clear of pine needles to visit ‘neighbors’ 5 or 6 trees away.
A forest neighborhood of tents and girls.
Strap fallen branches to trees that corral stick horses with paper bag heads.
Listen to the stampede ride down the path to the hootenanny circle of empty coffee cans tipped upside down for drums. Sit on a rock and beat them with sticks.
"Jump down turn around, pick a bale of cotton."
Create. Sing. Dance.

Race through the forest to Grammie's house, dodging horseflies,
slamming screen doors and calling "Yoo Hoo!"
Stir the sweet iced tea in her chipped, white pail and steal a sip while corn fritters fry in crisco and butter... as saliva pools in anticipation.
Faces glisten from the buttery drippings of corn cobs,
washed clean by watermelon juice and a forearm.
Taste. Smell.

Skinny dip in the moonlight while waiting, waiting patiently for the fudge to harden… ohhh… the fudge made by the smart, tired woman who was never too tired to make fudge. 
Run from the lake, hold the towel wrapped tight, dripping, ... up the stairs...
sand covered feet dipped in the metal pail of water at the back door.
Carefree as the mice who scurried over rafters to make their nests as warm as ours
in the stained plywood walls beside our beds.
‘Til mother’s trap would snap in the middle of the night,
and there’d be one less playmate in the morning.
Lay on your little bed and listen to the symphony of cricket air.
Peek silently out the bedroom window,  waiting in the dark for momma raccoon to come,
then watch breathlessly as her babies slip quietly from the forest to feast on corn cobs we had licked and other scraps of raccoon delight.
Sleep. Dream. Remember. 

"Show me the way to go home."

Patricia Spreng

Joining tonight with d’Verse Poets for Open Link Night…  where you will find the wonderful words of poets.


  1. hot...this is actually a fav of yours...i was right there and experiencing just a bit of it...really great descriptions...your opening line on no underwear was a grabber..i was like what? ha....really well done...

  2. I like the verbs ending each stanza; what a lovely memory, strong images of a place you enjoyed-- I could picture them. Something a bit different from you-- enjoyed this, Patricia! :)

  3. Childhood memories often make the best stories. I felt like I was swimming in that lake 9and eating those pancakes) with you. Good poem, Patricia.

  4. What a beautiful childhood.....just perfect....I felt like I was there :)

  5. Wonderful memory and you described it so perfectly, like the reader is actually there, very nicely done!

  6. Brilliantly evocative of the most intense and precious period in life. Great imagery and a quiet intensity make this a really rewarding read. Thank you. James.

  7. such great childhood memories..i was right there with you, smelling and feeling the adventures and warmth...beautiful patricia

  8. ahhh... each of the images was so perfectly detailed, I felt it could almost be my own memory. Those were simpler times, eh? Lovely, just lovely.

  9. Fabulous summer lake memories! We used to go to Lake George, NY, but your reminiscences are richer than anything I recall, probably because you seem to have the fun of extended family.

    The only way home is to do something similar with your children and grandchildren -- or SOMEONE'S!

    Hope you are still making memorable summers.

  10. Sounds like a wonderful mother, making fudge endlessly and smoothing off those barbs.

    Hope my patience won't suddenly snap in the night. :)

    A cake of soap -- you guys were "fancy" :)

    Excellent stream of summer memories.

  11. THis is absolutely delightful. I think I grew ten years younger just reading it. Maybe more :). I saw two monarchs flying through the yard today and thought of you. Sending hugs.

  12. Sounds just the teensiest bit like heaven to me. Thanks for it, Pat. :>)


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