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Owens, Elisabeth, R. (ed.) / Encore: more of parallel press poets

Conley, Francine
Michelle,   pp. 17-18

Page 17

     The past is hidden in some material object which we do not suspect.
     And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it
or not.. 
     -M. Proust 
The black vinyl bicycle seat soaks up the sun 
into a smell that is Michelle lolling up a lakeside hill 
in short shorts. She's on my mother's 3-speed, 
and I am folded, like a towel, in the back seat. 
Michelle's legs go jingle jangle, her sandals slip, 
my head bobs back and forth to the chain's slow 
metal ache. This is-was--Michelle and me, 
and my mother's bicycle seat. At the top of the hill 
Michelle caught her breath while traffic passed. 
A nearby wild rose bush sent us a sigh of listless 
perfume. Michelle whistled to carpenters 
passing by in pick-ups, grins wide, sun burnt arms 
flexed out of windows, faces speckled with paint 
and reflector glasses sending back our own image. 
Michelle babysat me and believed like her friends 
I wanted nothing more than to go to "the beach." 
There I was versed in the heartland's tragic landscape. 
Lakes dulled by an algae veneer; sand freckled 
with imagined Bahamas and cheap booty: 
plastic foldout chairs, brown bottled cocoa butter, 
palm tree logos, foam cups masking Lite beer, 
extra-large towels with I Heart the Beach. 
Transistor radios boomed summer tunes, 
shirtless boys honked like swans in convertibles 

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