Before I really ever thought of writing, there was “Lemonade.” It was a poem created in an English class on the last day of school. The teacher of the class, was a poetry obsessed, middle aged woman, who was always returning to stories of her and her husband falling in love in ‘poetry school. She was always returning to those days when he’d read her poetry in French, ‘the sexiest language,’ and how magical this was. I just remember it was the last day of school, we had actually made books by hand and now we were outside going to fill them with poetry. I remember her putting wet towels on her neck constantly as she rambled about her love affair and we sat outside in the humidity writing our poems. I honestly think I had no clue what to write about, so I wrote about ‘lemonade,’ because it was almost summer and it was a summer drink. She asked me to read the poem and I read it. I had no idea until I was met with complete silence and then she giggled and said, “I had no idea you had that in you,’ almost pleased. I too did not know I had it in me. The poem was about lemonade but definitely when read had quite a sexual tone. Of course, the teacher loved it. I believe she had me read it again. I did without hesitation or thought. I laugh now thinking about how oblivious I was to the whole situation; however, it was one of the first times that got me thinking about writing and what it does, the impact it can have on people, and how every one hears something unique and different in what we write… I wish I still had the real poem. This, however, is my interpretation of what happened that day.
In ninth grade I wrote a poem called “Lemonade.”
It felt like I was dousing myself in lighter fluid.
Lemons and sugar,
You might as well have been kissing the back of my neck at the stove.
The thirst & the chilled water,
Laying you down on the kitchen counter…
When you’re flesh is growing and your voice is going baritone,
Anything that leaves your mouth sounds like sex.
It was the last day of school and there was no breeze to be found.
Every kid’s body sat like one long sigh waiting to be exhaled.
Time was dismantling itself like a woman slipping of her pumps,
Her stockings, her skirt. Ms. Glutton kept lifting her hair
And dripping wet clothes down the back of her neck. We
Sat in a circle under an oak tree behind the school.
Ms Glutton showed us a picture, of her younger self
And a bearded scholarly gentlemen kissing in ‘poetry college.’
Il m’a même lu de la poésie écrite en français, la langue la plus, She giggled slipping into French. We had no idea
What she was saying, but we understood.
She was telling us about how exciting it was to be a girl,
Experiencing new things, being spoken to in French
By a lover she straightened her hair for, who hoisted her by her waist
She is speaking French and straightening her hair and
As she learned to kiss with a new tongue.
She went from girl in sexy bell bottom jeans
To someone who drapes herself in subdued antique brocades and lace mantillas.
“Poetry will change you,” she assured us, as she passed
pink and yellow paper and then blue and then green.
The colors mattered less and less, as the placing letters did more.
At first ‘k’s’ and ‘r’s’ and how to place them mattered,
but then they absconded on their own fluttering across colored pages
Like a troop of la belle dame
Butterflies. Spillage onto the page.
Words like thirst, lemons, sugar stirred in my imagination.
“This is how the earth felt at its birth,” I thought.
Volcanos and virulent storms thrashing through me,
Carving out a landscape of a poem.
As she called on me to read aloud what I’d written,
My parched throat scratched out, Lemonade. I began
I started to read never noticing the sun
Glancing in on the yellow flowers in the distance.
I read about lemons ripening, running wild, sun savaged,
And the throats that would finally be quenched by them.
I bent into the yawning sun and kept reading as it caressed me.
Finally, I stopped. Stunned as I realized every one was silent.
Ms. Glutton with the hair stuck to the back of her neck swallowed hard,
“Wow. I’m not quite sure you had that in you.”
She fanned herself with construction paper.
“I don’t know if I will ever drink lemonade again the same,”
The class giggled.
It was all hot, fluttering, and brief.
Inside my parched throat, a thirst,
I’d never felt before. I swallowed hard
Unaware it would be a thirst that would lead to many things,
A thirst I still struggle to satiate.