We were certain then that we’d be
a success in life, that we’d drive
the kind of cars our fathers
only dreamed of as our mothers
chuckled about mid-life crises.
They spoke about sons and daughters
of friends who were doctors,
or at least lawyers, bemoaned
those who taught or held jobs
they called manual labor.
But we were going in a whole different
direction, we would eschew medicine,
reject law, for we would be titans
of retail, and one day we would have
too many lemonade stands to count.
The cannery, long before it was a mall,
sat on the verge of the bay
bellowing steam into the night sky
shrouding the stars in a gauze blanket,
listening to the braying of the harbor seals
pleading for the morning’s dross
to be returned to the bay waters.
The otters lie on their backs peering
over the rocks and the monolith
its lights blazing as the trucks and carts
are laden with neatly stacked boxes,
grasping their stones, crushing
the shells nestled on the bellies.
Outside the fishermen, boats
scrubbed clean, stagger
down the narrow streets, stumbling
from bar to tavern, sleeping fitfully
on benches in the nearby park,
dragging up narrow alleys
to small, fading framed houses
kerosene lamps growing dim,
knowing the sun merely dozes
below the horizon, soon
to edge up and watch the boats
ease back out of the harbor into the sea.
Steinbeck walks slowly, savoring
the smells of morning, tasting
the stale beer of the night before.
First Appeared Online at Beachfire Gathering, 1996.