Poem: Family Camp

Sep 1, 2016

For many of us, summer offers that rare opportunity to get away and spend some time with the people we love. You might have a special place you retreat each year.

But as Milwaukee poet Jenny Benjamin can attest – going to that special place also means you have to leave it, as well.

I have packed up our lives in plastic bags
that will not decompose and suitcases with broken handles.
Now medicines, lotions, sprays unfurl in the cabin,
ticker tape necessities to last the week in a wood
of the first greens on earth, the pines pulling at endless sky,
cloud poofs massing, ready for their naming of rabbit, dragon,
marshmallow, making fires in our minds where we try to catch
a wisp of ember before it drifts into a purple night. Our toes pull
rakes over cool sand -- the same sand, my six-year-old muses, as last year.
Maybe, I say, and she already feels the yank of departure at the start,
the rambling sink in our navels that we will have to leave Hideaway,
a secret garden name for our cabin, at week’s end.
I do not think a man has ever really loved me, I say to no one,
only the halo guide of the flashlight.
It feels right sending this maxim to air, to the hint of October
winking in the chill. Then the golden leaves can tap
my words and roll them over in their turning hands,
until they tumble on a breeze and fall.

Jenny Benjamin is a poet and Lake Effect contributor, based in Milwaukee.