Long Beach still-life 
  
"Caution - Children"
is the ice cream van's declaration
in the language of uneven spray paint
as it lilts siren lullabies
to the ears of the weekend beach crowd
reliably rousing the children
from drowsy splashing
to urgent scrounging for money.
  
A centipede of weary cars
crawls 'round the lot
playing musical spaces,
rap, rock and salsa colliding.
Gulls leapfrog lampposts,
landing and leaving,
crows work the palm trees,
pigeons do mingling;
scurrying waders pitch high-pitched screams
as waves chill thighs, inching higher,
lifeguards sorting the sounds
of passing calamities
from pressing emergencies.
  
Jose and Tamara queue up
in the long line for ice-cream,
smiling chatter passes the time,
sandy dollars clenched tightly
in hands still sticky from snacks.
The woman in front can't make up her mind:
"do you have sherbet" she asks
the vendor whose English
can cover the flavor still left.
Peeling pictures tempt
with their sold-out depictions,
layers of stickers peg prices -
no haggling allowed on the beach.
  
Round dads, stately balding,
flop family frisbees
at small scrawny sons
whose running atones
for dads' sins in the lost art of throwing.
Moms cover their blankets
amply with flesh and with shade,
bags, boxes and strollers
fortify borders,
meandering shadows
from folding umbrellas and chairs,
our leisure-time measured
in empty containers.

  
 Jon Bohrn (2000)

Long Beach shoreline, 1931
Long Beach shoreline, 1931

 

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