Clifton Park

I demanded that my mother
take me back to the park
with three swimming pools.
Summer was so much hotter then.
At night fans cooled us down.
In the days we moved slowly,
drank ice tea or Kool-Aid—
Again, I asked her
to take me to the city park
with the three pools
all concrete-bottomed, concrete-sided.
The baby pool, the pool for grownups
the middle pool.
I waded cautiously in to the shallow end,
watched boys dive in,
swim like fish through cold water,
yell and splash.
Their skin was dark,
their hair cut close to their heads,
dark whorls in perfect patterns—
I pestered my mother to take me back.
She shook her head.
Why, I asked. Why not?
All summer I contemplated
the park, the pools, the boys
calling out challenges,
shoving, laughing, scrambling
onto the pool’s concrete edges.
Why, I kept asking. Why
don’t we go back there?
Polio, she said,
too many city people.
I understood polio.
But the rest of it confused me.
What could be better than
to be near those boys,
their skin glistening,
their shouts, name-calling, bragging
in the park, in the city that belonged
to all of us?