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?
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.