The Oldies, at Island Pond, Vermont

By Allen Stein
Feature image: Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing, 1786 by William Blake

Rockin’ in jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers
at the tiny bandstand by the pond,
the ponytailed girl belts them out, the goldies
of three or four decades ago.
She’s hittin’ ’em with her best shot,
makin’ it all hurt so good,
but a closer look shows she’s no younger
than the songs she sings,
though not as old as most dancing
on the worn-out patch between
their lawn chairs and the stage
this final Friday Night Live of a brief
summer that in these parts is rarely
without a hint of the fall.

The dancers, moving gingerly, stiffly,
grin in unabashed acknowledgment
that the tempo hasn’t changed but they have.
One white-bearded fellow’s denims droop
at the seat despite his tightened belt
and taut bright suspenders, and an old lady
stands at her walker and sways,
dreamy-eyed, perhaps recalling, perhaps not,
that these are the tunes not of her own youth
but her grandchild’s. Beside her,
a stout, gray-haired woman,
no doubt her daughter, mouths the words,
smiles, and holds her mother’s hands,
steadying her as they move together
to “Every Breath You Take.”

The surrounding mountains dim
and the nearby pond (a broad, deep lake, really)
reflects the stars. At its center sits an island,
thickly wooded, uninhabited.
As the sun moves on, the elderly drift away,
and younger kids step in,
accepting, for tonight at least,
a mellowed groove. In time, the last notes
of the final Friday Night Live
will float out over the water. The dancers
will linger briefly, then depart, grateful
for the music they’ve been given.

Allen Stein teaches American Literature at North Carolina State University. He has had poems published in over twenty journals, among them Poet Lore, Willow Springs, Salmagundi, and The South Carolina Review. He has a collection forthcoming with the Main Street Rag Publishing Company and another with Broadstone Books. The former collection was a semi-finalist for the University of Wisconsin Poetry Series’ Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry.

Feature image: Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910. Image released under  Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) Photo © Tate.

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