A Photographic Memory
by Nancy J. Barbara
The picture window
faced the sound of the surf.
When the wind was west,
the whistle of the lifeguard
blew off the ocean and breezed through the jalousies
bending my mother’s ear
while falling deaf on my father’s.
If I was near,
she’d say, “Please,
never go past your knees in the Atlantic.
It’s as unpredictable as your father’s hearing.”
We’d listen to the whine of the whistle
bay at the ocean,
and then she’d crack the jalousies full-tilt,
letting the spray of the sea
bathe her African Violets
with salt spots perching upon the
The picture window was our theater to the world.
When thunder rumbled
and the sky looked like a grape jelly finger-painting
on blue Fiesta Ware,
she’d pull up a chair
and the Venetian blinds.
Lightning snaked through the stars playing connect the dots
while thunder kept the beat to nature’s symphony.
Our dark living room would flash white with a crack
like photographs taken with an old Kodak
and outline our silhouettes creating a sepia daguerreotype.
This was our picture show on muggy summer nights
when the sweat poured down our foreheads like
hot caramel on a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
After the storms, we’d listen to the ocean’s calm
by cupping our ears with the conch shells
we had collected and lined-up on our windowsills.
My mother called them binoculars for the ears.
At night, after the storms,
we’d go to sleep between white sheets soft as sea oats,
which by day, waved like flags in the salt-scented air.
I had not a care but to stay wading
only up to my knees.