Scott Withiam


I've been that boy at the beach,
sprinting lickety-split out of the sea,
just as quickly jumping to the hot tarmac,
shifting one bare foot to the other,

the vendor then handing me,
out of his truck, my choice,
a gaudy blue, bug-eyed rabbit

at the same time saying,
"Have a nice day," my character
already melting, myself madly
licking to save it, eagerly keep

from dripping, losing to the heat—
the game to get as much as I can
in my mouth, not on me. And there it goes—
the truck smoking off, its left rear

sagging from a broken spring,
its cheery jingle distorted
and the orange gumball still on the blink.
I've been that father, who caught up

and paid for his son, but did not relive
anything in him there on,
didn't watch him, in delight,
forget his front covered in melt, or notice

he'd become no better at it—
keeping himself clean—the father
in his abandon who, paying, stuck—                   
from behind Ray Ban aviators—

one sunscreen-dipped bather
guiding her bikini string back
to the strip—landing    

I don't miss any of it,
and the good thing is
none of these people are me.
Then why go to the shore?

That boy whining, "I'm all sticky,
how do I get this off?" altogether
missing what distracts his father,
but "Are you stupid?" doesn't miss 

for me. That's his father's on-a-dime,
self-accusing swing, although
he takes an edge off with
"There it is—under your nose

where it's always been—
our big, blue Atlantic Ocean.   
Just march right back there
and throw yourself back in."




I needed to win the Sarasota Poetry Contest before my mother died in Sarasota, so to be flown down to read her a poem written just for her—so for once she'd understand the value of poetry—sometimes to express in words how much someone means to you—but in that case, expressed in action too, though some of it paid for. So it never happened. After she died, I won the contest with a poem about winning the contest, no flight included. In the poem, I bought my own ticket. I deplaned in Sarasota and entered the terminal, where someone I'd never seen before had just finished a reading of my winning poem because it wasn't really me or the intended audience, and there was a dead poet standing there dressed as a limousine driver responsible for picking me up and transporting me somewhere else, carrying a sign saying Are you the person I'm supposed to pick up? That's when my mother called from heaven and said, "It's alright. Who goes to poetry readings there anyways? Nobody! Nobody now, I can join you." "You can't drive, anymore," I said, which I said to her more than anything else when she was alive. Could I ever stop her? Within seconds, she was standing behind me. Literally, she walked right up to that dead poet and said, "Read my sign. It says 'I'm here to say that poetry can transport anyone great distances.'" She'd changed. "I knew how much you loved me," she said, and let a dead poet safely drive her home. Now I drifted. I didn't write for weeks. I spent all my winnings. I had to find a job. It was tax season. I took a job dressed as the Statue of Liberty. I waved to traffic with one hand extended over my head, where the torch should have been, while with the other hand I kept scooping a circular-shaped arrow sign to suggest that others whizzing by pull into the strip mall, get help filing their claim before it was too late and they fell behind, which my mother never did.






"What's true in that contest poem?"
are the following:

· I miss my mother's sense of humor, her quirks, her feistiness.
· My mother retired in Sarasota
· before she died. The freedom a car gave was more important to her.
· Years ago, while she was tan and healthy in Sarasota, I submitted poetry to some sort of poetry contest there. I had an overblown sense of how nice it would be to win, fly down, show my mother I'd made it big time in the world, that I was riding high, all to disprove her sense that poetry was worthless and art an irresponsible pursuit, both wastes as far as establishing financial stability, therefore domestic stability, something she never enjoyed most of her life.
· I've yet to prove her wrong on any count.
· I tell people more than they need to know all the time. But I rarely fail
· to tell people how much I love them. No matter what the case,
I tell them there's a poetry contest where they live, and that winning it includes a free flight right to their door, and that I'm already on it.