It’s a small, but airy, two bedroom
built at the corner of an inland canal;
brightly decorated in yellows, greens, blues and whites,
and perpetually shaded from the Sunshine State.
A peculiar land of tropical scents
and strikingly unfamiliar sights.
Far removed from the only place I know at night,
Put to bed too early,
I lie in the sitting room-turned-my-room,
tossing and turning on the lumpy sofa-bed
for what seems like hours and hours on end.
Listening intensely to the sounds of apartment living
made especially audible by the glass-vented door
opening onto the curved building’s exterior hall.
My slatted portals to an unknown world.
To the sounds of the apartment people
returning from the pool,
Of doorbells ringing
and little feet skipping,
and hugs and kisses
and friendly greetings.
Of moist, briny winds
carrying the scents
of jasmine and orange blossoms,
and parking lot asphalt.
And the ladies’ perfumes
as they stroll past my door.
The echo of laughter in the nearby stairwell,
and their happy words
with the sudden click of a heavy car door.
Murmurs from the living room TV
add to this strange symphony,
with familiar sounds
and flickering lights
that seep through the bottom of the door,
casting short, cryptic shadows
on the thickly carpeted,
recently vacuumed floor.
Comforting is the knowledge
that Papa is in the room next door.
arms folded high across his belly,
and a large RC Cola at his side.
Grinning at Clem Kadiddlehopper,
or growling at the Chicago Bears.
When Papa finally turns the television off
I lie in the still and unfamiliar dark.
The inland water’s slow, buoyant motion,
lulls me into a deep and scented slumber.
until the morn.
When I linger on the lumpy mattress
and listen to the apartment people
begin their days.
Wooed by the sounds of others stirring,
I stretch toward kitchen utensils clanking
and the smells of breakfast cooking
on the other side of the wall.
Oh these, my Florida days.
Of sand slipping away beneath my tiny feet,
and seashell hunts as the sun dips low;
of Nonnie’s curled and bunioned toes
and skinny, seagull legs
dipping into the foamy waves,
but never past her knees.
These early days of sunset walks
along a stretch of beach
that leads to a lighthouse
and a creaky, tottering wharf
where Papa likes to take a walk.
And I like to walk with him.
Where fishing boats have funny names
and a tiny gift shop,
in a weather-beaten shanty,
sells orange gum-balls
packed in little, wooden crates.
Which Papa buys for his little, Pie-Face.
Of bright, green lizards
skittering across pastel walls,
and pats on the head
by terrycloth clad men
playing cards in the shades of umbrellas.
Where suntanned women
with the giant bosoms
and ever-blooming swim caps
wade in the shallow end,
with big, dentured smiles
for the little one
Oh these, my Florida days.