By the time all the buttons had fallen off our time travel device all the leaves of grass had melted in the summer heat all the girls smelled fresh and walked through the door, hips out and the boys whistled jazz and tapped out the blues on the jeans on their knees. The air had stopped smelling like falafel and the sky was not blue but it certainly was not white. I’ll make sure to ask for you so we
know. There was that August certainty, no one was quite sure when the fire melting on the pavement would start to hissss and fire escapes would stop bearing fruit and the shih tzu wearing the bow tie would put back on his track pants. They called it the summer melody and sang it through Olmstead’s masterpiece up and down fifth avenue through the army parade and stopped at the Brooklyn Bridge.
It was the secret that all of us knew the verse we all sang between west fourth street and the rest of the world. Honey, you have found gold I would tell you if I could sift this city through the river. If only they’d dug this place up anywhere else at any other time. This island I don’t know too well but if you listen she’ll sing to you and her voice is like sunset over the river over the world.
Cut each rope that ties this ship to shore
set out to drift on the empty palms of
lackluster waves, each an afterthought
of the hurricane season. Wrangle the bow
into forward, never drift in reverse
or twist (each face new) or green
or black and bury each reflection of a wingless sky
under mounds of moments. Synchronize
the swollen rock and sway with each shadow
—they crest before the fall—and
picture not water but mountaintop
beneath hull, unable to writhe,
paralyzed, beneath dirt and maps.
pulled in the oars, the day today
might be lingering, white and
wide-winged, above each chart
yet to be drawn.
Eventually I’ll fancy myself a paleontologist
dig up old bones, spend hours rolling in the dirt
with a toothbrush—I won’t be delicate,
neither will the mountains, the air,
the layers I’ll strip back, just to find the last
triceratops who ate leaves from the tree
that no one can find but we all know is out there.
I’ll dig up each skeletal plate each tiny arm
each part that didn’t function well enough to
when the weather started fluctuating.
So weak to be so big, so withered by
the heat, turned to leather, turned to stone.
I’ll lick each one clean each bone, roll it around
feel out the grooves that haven’t yet fallen
to dust, smell the smell of the ones that were supposed
to be mighty, supposed to last,
to last until the sun is too bright, the heat to hot,
and laying down in sleep means company
alone, even strong bones get grooves, and cracks.
Julia Tompkins, Age 17, Grade 11, Saint Ann’s School, Gold Key