American Summer

Hot. So hot and close. August in the Ozarks. The air is a brick wrapped in wet wool across your chest. This is no beach sunny summer, splashy sandcastles in foam surf collecting seashells. This is sun on boulders. Sun on green, verdant, drone of cicadas at full volume before they start to die. You loved those jeans but they were so hot when we got down here you had to cut them off. State park bathrooms in old pine, brown painted, lichens, ripe. It’s not the mosquitoes, it’s the chiggers, gravel dust in the parking lot parching your throat.

And then a first sweet plunge into river fresh water, so cold and so deep, your full height again above your head to the surface, air bubbles escaping up, a pocket of stone, pools in stone, one giant stone a hundred undulating yards long, river forced through small spaces so it goes deep, rushes.

Middle America, summer. An American Summer. No coast in sight.