There was always one girl who got too drunk
in Lisa’s backyard that summer, face down
on the cement lawn that circled the pool
like the gravelly mineral clasp
around a bead of turquoise on a necklace,
mumbling a whiskeyed rasp to “Brown Sugar”
shaking the speakers’ black cabinets.
It was usually Dorothy, the plain, lanky lifeguard
from Port Chester with the 1920s name
who’d lean over the old 70s bar on the patio,
swell of white formica striped with mirrored strips,
that glittered under the bars of light
falling through the arbor’s grey slats.
She’d shoot Jim Beam with the male counselors,
sway through the ocean of teens
in her white t-shirt with the red cross
slashed across her freshman breasts
and slide into the water’s clear glass.
Once, she got so loaded, a group of guys tied her
to the weeping willow in the front yard
with a garden hose, thick green ribbons
lashed around her waist.
She held a beer bottle in one hand
that sloshed and frothed over its amber neck
as she pumped her fist and slurred the words
to “Pour Some Sugar on Me,”
tossing her sun-washed hair and pouting
her blistered lips like the girls who made it
backstage at metal shows. She was never attractive,
even in the soft, rippling light of the pool
that made her skin appear electric, the beanpole
of her body arcing over the rim
to gather leaves in a long black net, clear the dark
plugs of cigarette butts clotted in the filter’s blue mouth.
I never saw her again after that summer
but thought of her the first time I got so high
I couldn’t stand, the first time a man pinned me
to the abyss of the bed
after a throat full of bourbon.
I finally understood
why she abandoned her body, gave it up
like an offering, pennants of smoke
from the altar, like someone who’s shot a flare
from a boat going under, its pink fire blossoming
in the garden of the night.