IDEAS OF HEAVEN
by Ellen Davis
I’m thinking about the summer when I was fourteen.
We’d rented a two-story place on the beach
at Cape Cod. In that house, I listened to
Tommy with my brother, who was able to understand
the significance of the opera. I was compelled
by the repetitions. I remember my mother,
in her usual quest to get me lessons, had signed
me up for a pottery class. The teacher’s assistant
was a creative Portuguese young man, Gary,
who liked me so much that he offered to
relieve me of my virginity. But I’d met a man
named Kevin, who was reading Herman Hesse.
We spoke only briefly. He detached himself from the crowd
and walked onto the salt flats holding his book
where the sunset painted the heavens pink and blue.
I was reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test—
who knows how my parents allowed it?—and listening
to Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” I thought heaven
was a rhythm of great happiness. On the highway
we’d see the long-haired young people
of America hitchhiking. I wanted to be
them, not the sheltered daughter of a busy teacher
and a doctor who listened to The Forsyte Saga on the radio.
How could I know that heaven was a two-story summer home?
How could I know that they would die and leave me
bereft of my beloveds? A rhododendron blooms
now at our neighbor’s hulking brown house.
Copyright © 2009 by Ellen Davis.