|photo by Danielle Kelly|
The Crazy Lady
She was always sitting on the end of the pier
Smiling, dressed for a party.
Sometimes she wore the red dress and black mantilla
Of a spanish cabaret act, sometimes she looked like a crazy doll
With a painted paper parasol and a blowing silk wrapped hat,
Strapless dress made for nightclub dancing.
Once she wore a cowgirl outfit
With a lasso and Stetson hat but we never saw her
Dressed for the beach.
It was Coney island; no one cared, but
Ma told us she was crazy, not to talk to her,
And really, we didn’t want to,
We just looked at her as if there were no ocean
No infinite playground of sand before us,
First thing every summer when we came,
Bringing our white city skin, our pails and shovels
And our blanket to wrap up the summer.
Dad was the only one who always
Turned his eyes away, his mouth set in a concrete line.
Our last summer at the beach, while Ma was swimming,
She left the pier, she walked down the boardwalk
Straight to our sandcastle, and stood behind Dad
Like a lost ranee in a purple sari of gauze,
a lipstick dot on her forehead.
She touched his back. Our eyes were round as sand dollars.
He jumped like a fish on the hook, when it fights to get away.
Then he looked at her
Really looked, like he might never stop looking.
The noises of the beach were muffled,
Time and motion slowed to nothing while they stared
As if they were alone on the moon.
Planets could have crashed above them.
The ground could have split.
Then she smiled, she put a raincoat over her
Wild lavender dress, and wiping her forehead,
Turned and walked away.
The next summer we went to the mountains
And rode horses and stayed at a ranch.
But I liked to think that she finally left the beach
Behind and, dressed like anybody’s mother,
Went home to smile for someone else.