Manhattan Beach, 1970s
My mother and aunts took good care of us
all those summers at Manhattan Beach
my cousins, sisters, and I packed into
Aunt Anna and Uncle Dom’s
big brown boat of a Cadillac,
Aunt Anna sailing the Belt Parkway
then turning off
Coney Island Avenue onto West End,
the El above us,
the salty ocean rolling in the windows,
my older sisters and cousins
laughing so hard they snorted,
our mothers yelling, “Cut it out!”
over Carole King singing
“I Feel the Earth Move” on the radio
as I sat squished in the backseat.
I remember tearing off my cover up,
running for the water,
swimming from 9 – 5 like it was a career
except when I got called out.
I’d insist I wasn’t hungry or cold
my lips as blue as a bruise,
the adults covering me in terry cloth,
handing me a tuna sandwich
that they pulled from the insulated bag
decorated with scenes from Man of La Mancha.
I remember my navy blue and green one piece
and Aunt Rose combing the ocean
out of my hair
only for me to bring it back in.
I remember the kissing teenagers
and the portable barbecues under the boardwalk.
I remember the wide open space
and the sea of people,
how safe I felt.
There was no way all twelve of us fit
in one car—
nine kids, three adults.
No way all our lunches
fit in one cooler.
No way that only one song played
all the way from Dyker Heights to Manhattan Beach.
Yet, that’s what’s I remember,
this and how my mother and aunts taught us
to stay together,
how to spread out our blankets
Maria Giura is the author of Celibate: A Memoir (Apprentice House) and What My Father Taught Me (Bordighera Press). Her writing has appeared in Prime Number, Presence, Italian Americana, Lips, VIA, and Tiferet. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award and was a judge for the Lauria/ Frasca Poetry Prize. She has taught at St. John’s University, Montclair State, and Binghamton University where she received her doctorate in English. mariagiura.com