Clifton Park

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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?
                                 ~Lynne Viti
Reprinted from Topology magazine. February 9, 2016
Featured image: photo of Clifton Park Swimming Pool, Maryland Historical Society

8 thoughts on “Clifton Park

  1. I can’t imagine how our mothers worried about this terrible disease back when we were young kids! There was even an adult family friend in our neighborhood who had contracted polio and was confined to an iron lung. Bless his soul!


  2. Polio was frightening. I met and raised in 1984 a privately funded R&D partnership for the two Baylor College of Medicine researchers (Drs. Joseph Melnick and Craig Wallace) who created the thermo-stabilizer for the Sabin polio vaccine – the one delivered in a sugar cube. It made them rich and BCM richer.


  3. Lynne,

    Did you read Philip Roth’s “Nemesis?” If not – please do. Your poem brought me back to those terrible days.




    1. I did read it. Like you, I think Roth is the best around.Where’s his Nobel Prize???? Overdue! Another one , not as intense nor as dark as the master Roth’s, is My Last Days as Roy Rogers, by Pat Cunningham Devoto


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