three bottles meant six pennies that would buy
a popsicle at the Little League baseball game,
one popsicle divided to share, and the leftover penny
bought a piece of Double Bubble to split in two.
We sat in the stands, watching our brothers at bat
while the popsicles melted in the hot sun of a Virginia afternoon
and turned our hands to ruby-colored claws. No one could lick fast enough
to beat the heat of mid-afternoon.
Who minded? Not us.
We were content, slurping the frozen ice down to the sticks,
then sucking the strawberry flavor out of the wood
until nothing of strawberry remained.
The bubble gum lasted the rest of the game.
Dusty and sticky we walked home;
Lights winked on as the sun glowed red and low,
staining the sky the color of our hands.
Dad’s car loomed out of the dusk, its black hulk familiar and frightening,
its quiet engine a carcass. It had not started for months,
and never would again.
But we had pop bottles and ball games, bubble gum and long summer days.
The concerns of adults were far away.
It was enough to sit on the porch swing,
watch the lightning bugs drift upwards from the grass,
listen to the whippoorwills
and lick the grubby sweetness from our hands.