Poetry Friday: “The Summer I Was Sixteen” – Geraldine Connolly

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Poetry Friday is hosted by the one and only Jama Rattigan @ Jama’s Alphabet Soup (welcome back, Jama, we’ve missed you!)

Two ex students floated into my classroom today to say hello.  They helped themselves to the leftover munchkins (what was left of the let’s-celebrate-the-end-of-testing party), enjoying every last morsel of powdered cinnamon and sugar, and then pirouetting around the room to demonstrate their new dance moves.  What was on their minds? Summer, of course, the summer they would both turn sixteen.

It was hard not to smile as I listened and watched them flit about, all high voices and sweet giggles.  Oh, to be about to turn sixteen…with dreams of a summer spent riding ones bike to the town pool, and lounging happily all the lazy, lovely, delicious day.

Graydon Pond - our town pool

Graydon Pond – our town pool

The Summer I Was Sixteen

Geraldine Connolly

The turquoise pool rose up to meet us,
its slide a silver afterthought down which
we plunged, screaming, into a mirage of bubbles.
We did not exist beyond the gaze of a boy.

Shaking water off our limbs, we lifted
up from ladder rungs across the fern-cool
lip of rim. Afternoon. Oiled and sated,
we sunbathed, rose and paraded the concrete,

danced to the low beat of “Duke of Earl”.
Past cherry colas, hot-dogs, Dreamsicles,
we came to the counter where bees staggered
into root beer cups and drowned. We gobbled

cotton candy torches, sweet as furtive kisses,
shared on benches beneath summer shadows.
Cherry. Elm. Sycamore. We spread our chenille
blankets across grass, pressed radios to our ears,

mouthing the old words, then loosened
thin bikini straps and rubbed baby oil with iodine
across sunburned shoulders, tossing a glance
through the chain link at an improbable world.


11 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “The Summer I Was Sixteen” – Geraldine Connolly

  1. Chris Lehman used this poem as a mentor text in his recent Teacher Poets workshop. This poem shows a big idea in a small moment. I love seeing my students as they grow into adults.

  2. It’s so wonderful to see them grow up, isn’t it, Tara? This poem is lovely, that baby oil and iodine, oh my! And the radio pressed to the ear. She got it all, didn’t she? Thank you!

  3. This is a great metaphor–tossing a glance
    through the chain link at an improbable world
    It so explains that feeling.
    Thanks for a great post.

  4. Ouch. I remember what it felt like to only “exist beyond the gaze of a boy.” And yet there is so much life here beyond that gaze. Love the dancing, dreamsicles, and bikini straps. So much life perched on the brink of that “improbably world.”

  5. What an absolutely perfect poem – how beautiful it is to be this young, and carefree, with infinite possibilities out there in the world. So glad to hear students visiting you, pirouetting with the knowledge of that improbable world and the vision of furtive kisses. Such gift.

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