Summer 1963 by James Robison

She remembers being four,
The Moscow airport flooded, the
Ice wet floor, the guns,
How a panic caught her. Red Star.
She remembers coming here, Ohio,
Nobody’s daughter, a cultural joke.
“So,who brought you then?”
“An overcoat, a rough hand, not
An uncle, just some guy who smoked.”

She’s fourteen now and lives at The Home,
Sweltering there in the August heat,
The smashed halls, battered
Stairs, and the 45’s playing Baby Don’t Go.
“My favorite saint is Agnes, who loved the lamb,
I’m called Alina, but that’s not who I am,
That’s just a drunken priest’s suggestion-“
She’ s descended from air and questions.

I use speed these burning days
Blowing through heat blurring
The greens. 57 Chevy, top down V8,
Alina beside me to see the stream
of weeds flowers, asters, dahlias, fields,
In sunglasses for the wind, her hair
Thrashing in the haze, newpenny red,
slashing bright to dark in strobing rays.
We are to the lake to swim, to the shady glades,
The ropeswing, the rings, the jade
Cold Indian Lake.

She’s 85 pounds, a symmetry; the day is 85 degrees
Says the radio, and we walk to the locker rooms.
Her borrowed suit’s too big when wet, slings steeply
Off clavickly shoulders, and behind, bends bare a freckled
trench of spine, and in the shower long freckled thighs,
dappled knees, her gaze of brutal green.
She’s about history. Stalin. KGB. Why was she smuggled
out? Here’s what’s happened to me: I take Alina to the lake.
Through the cooling speed and slurred greens. I’m 16 and
nothing but she has happened to me. Enough and more.
In times before before.

 

About the Author:

James Robison recently had his calf gashed by a cow nosed ray while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. He is the winner of a Pushcart Prize for 2013 and his prose poem-from an online journal–will appear in that anthology. He has published many stories in The New Yorker, won a Whiting Grant for his short fiction and a Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His leg is healing and has appeared in Best American Short Stories, The Manchester Review. He lived on the North Shore for a month. He was Visiting Writer at Loyola College of Maryland, was Fiction Editor of The North Dakota Quarterly and 2011 Visiting Artist at The University of Southern Mississippi.