Traverse City

by George Bilgere

Feature image: Odilon Redon. Still Life with Flowers, 1905. The Art Institute of Chicago.

On my way to the conference in Traverse City
I drive by the toy lake where my family came
for summer getaways from steamy St. Louis.

The tiny cottages on the shore are still there.
There is the white sand where I played with my sisters
and learned how to swim from a teenaged lifeguard
whose beauty put my child’s mind in confusion.

My mother sat at a card table with her friends,
smoking and playing gin rummy. Weekends,
my father flew up from the mystery
of his job and his life without us.
My father dead now, my mother dead,
along with the friends she played cards with.

My sisters are middle-aged women,
children and divorces behind them.
I am older than my father ever was.

Yet there are the cottages and the beach
where we played with our buckets and shovels,
as the children on the sand are playing now.

No one can explain this.

George Bilgere’s most recent book of poems is The White Museum, chosen by Alicia Ostriker for the 2010 Autumn House Poetry Series. He received a Pushcart Prize in 2009 and won the May Swenson Poetry Award in 2006 for Haywire (Utah State University Press). He teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.

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