Parade Float, 2012

For many years we have celebrated July 4 at our extended family’s summer cottage in Maine. After the small town parade in the morning, we go home to prepare our potluck dish and gather with acquaintances in the afternoon for a party.  Seeing people we haven’t seen for a year can be complicated, producing the sensations in this poem:

 

Hail, Festival Day!

First the parade: old
cars, fire engines,
floats carry costumed
neighbors.  Then
the party: annual
acquaintance makes
conversation hard.
Even the names slip
from these not quite
strangers: is this
the grandmother who
reported two weddings,
or the mother whose
child had cancer?
An interior parade
imprints names,
connections: she’s
Mary’s daughter, he’s
Frank’s houseguest.
Is Joan the artist
or the realtor?
Brain tires with
body: oil of politeness
cannot loosen stiff
ligaments, strained
from standing
so long at attention.

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