Friday, March 6, 2009

I Once Lived in Narragansett, Rhode Island

Wealthy Philadelphians summered here
in the 1800’s.
They came by rail
with their steamer trunks
and servants.

There were grand hotels,
golf courses,
polo grounds,
tennis courts,
a race track,
and a casino.

John Wilkes Booth’s brother
visited regularly each summer.
He used to stage plays
in a circular guest house
on Central Street.

Jefferson Davis’ daughter
attended St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
as a part-time parishioner.
A Tiffany stained-glass window
was bequeathed in her memory.

I remember the seagulls
screeching at the sea wall.
Beady eyes on high alert,
always on the look-out
for a snack.
Flying rats
the locals called them.
I loved their big yellow beaks
with the tiny red spot
on the tip.

Bright beach umbrellas
in primary colors
luffed in the breeze
like spinnakers
in a regatta.

Out on the water
sailboats drifted by,
tacking and jibing
their way
to Block Island.

The smell of sea kelp
marinated in salt water
slapped you in the face
at low tide.

The tympanic pounding
of the waves
against the shore
sounded like the percussion section
of some celestial symphony.

I used to walk down the beach,
past the Dunes Club
to the Narrow River.
When the tide was running out,
you could dive into the water
and the current would suck you up
and spit you out
at the mouth of Narragansett Bay.

I will always wonder why Narragansett
never achieved the stature of Newport.
Although Jacqui Kennedy’s maiden aunts
had once lived across the street from me,
the Vanderbilts never came.
I suppose it was the harbor
that was lacking.

How different it is
from the Sonoran Desert
where I now live
amid the succulents and cacti
that populate this place.
The painting of the old casino, So Many Memories,
still hangs on my dining room wall.

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