Pleasantville Day Camp, July, 1960

This poem was born during a workshop called “A Feast For Bards: Farm to Table Poetics,” held June 25 at the Poetry Barn. Learn more about the Poetry Barn is this issue, here.

After a day in the campsite
constructing a lean-to for the coming overnight,
making brooches from branches
cut at an angle and shellacked,
gobs of glue holding the pin,
our names picked out in dried alphabet pasta;
lanyards, of course, shiny pink and blue neon,
braid, barrel stitch, box stitch, snake stitch—
our trophies;
a day of relay races and swimming tests
for Minnow, Trout or Shark,

we sit in the open field, sun-tired,
drinking apple juice and chocolate chip cookies
or pineapple juice and Lorna Doones.
The juice is warm and the cookies soft.
We tease each other with tales
of the Pleasantville Maniac
who lives in the woods and eats children.
No path is safe.
We know he isn’t real but he is ours
and in the dark he may be.

Then we pack onto the bus, wet bathing suit
and leftover lunch in our bags,
back to the Bronx,
to walk-ups, second-hand furniture,
fish stew, liver, dried-out hamburgers,
overcooked vegetables
and home-grown nightmares.

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