Poetry: The Last Summer of Innocence by Zoë Fay-Stindt

In “The Last Summer of Innocence,” the speaker remembers the fickle nature of youth; the intricacies of those summers, however, never dies in the speaker’s ardent memory.

The Last Summer of Innocence

                    after Fatimah Asghar

We called it doctor, husband and wife.

The rules—only medics and men


pry girls open—meant that within

these mores, we were safe.


We could poke and rub and splay

and not have to reckon with ourselves,


explain our hours-long naps in the old

stone oven, justify the pop-ups flooding


the screen we forgot to clear or the secrets

scribbled on berry-scented Diddl paper.


I can still remember our own tart smell,

summer souring us, those drink stirrers we pulled


from Shirley Temples and mint diabolos

to sound our waters, the gummy traces


we left behind. Then, too soon,

my hair started coming in dark


and Sara told me I was lucky though all I felt

was a welt of exhaustion, alien


from myself. I was the pack leader,

newfound red. We were still finger-painting


my bathroom walls: Alice + Frank encircled

in a thick and clumsy blue heart, a small swift trapped


in her nest above the trash can. By the time I started shaving

even Mom would say I could have done a better job


after my first attempt on top of the toilet with a dry razor

and cheap cream, red bumps blooming, everything impossible.


It was the summer I’d crouch next to the vent in the hallway

so I could breathe cool air, long after I’d stopped running naked


through the water sprinkler when the girls

called me gay at my birthday sleepover,


the summer Ashley chased me around the room

with an open stapler, shooting, or clamping


the hot straightener down on my ear

if I fidgeted during date night groomings.


By the time I came back to France the next year,

we were splitting loves in sleeping bags


at the edge of the red lake, had subbed the boys in for each other

and though I was still famished we’d never talk about it,


I the shameful leader of our trespasses, horrified

at my own appetite, blooming predator.


That summer I was so anxious to escape

my quiet kitchen with my tired mother


and gone dad, our too-yellow egg salad.

I was always calling out into their garden


from my window, Are you done

eating? Can I come over?


Zoe Fay-Stindt

Zoë Fay-Stindt (she/her/figuring it out) is a bicontinental poet with roots in both the French and American south. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Entropy, Winter Tangerine, EcoTheo, Muzzle, and others. You can find her on the internet @ZoeFayStindt.  

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