Photograph by Ron Magill.
You can live your whole life in the springs of T. S. Eliot. There, snow fades to street charcoal, ice water soaks through in the seams of your shoes, and the sky remains an unmovable gray as the clock ticks forward an entire hour all at once.
But somewhere, on the other side of this city, there is a beach lined with bodies getting tanner, an MTV camera crew in attendance. Somewhere, in the heart of this city, a celebrity you adore leans over a balcony, aiming his phone’s camera at the pool below. His lens is filled with bikinis, inflatable volleyballs, waiters in white button ups serving tropical drinks, the pool deck: a pink concrete, the pool itself: an azure glass.
It’s the undergraduates attending class in their swim suits that makes the campus swimming pool visible again, and you realize you now live in the place of vacations.
What does that mean for you, the poet?
Spring break is always something quiet. Every day, you open the windows and doors of your flat wide, and sit in the shade of your living room, looking out into golden light. Whenever the rain comes, you point your phone’s camera at the palm fronds on the street corner: the same view you’ve been sending to the people back home since you got here.
In this city, if spring break means tourists rushing to the water like blood to a bruise, there are newly empty parts of the city waiting for you. You learn this when you go to the movies and the theater is empty. You spill soda on the seat next to you and shout expletives to the protagonist. Later, you take a turn down a street you’ve never seen before and wind up at a bookstore. It’s filled with nothing but expensive tomes on art and architecture, so you go home.
If you want to be a tourist, you drive inland, to the glades. Count the alligators in the reeds. Count the green herons in the trees. Count the cameras on all sides of you. Have you ever seen so many eyes turned out?
On the drive back, you stop for the $12 buffet at the Miccosukee Resort. You eat a plate full of iceberg lettuce and cherry tomatoes. You come home and read the syllabus. You sit at your desk and look at the pencil box etched with a map of where you’re from.
It doesn’t sound like much, but everywhere you go, a sun is following you.
The midwestern dough of your body is rising.