by Ariana Hughes | Poetry | Summer 2021
On the hottest summer days, I like to be up early,
Racing the advancing blaze. I tiptoe to the balcony
Accompanied by a gleaming bowl of oranges,
And absorb the shy warmth, the distant groans of construction.
Before long I am lost in a memory—
If I squint towards the sun I see him smiling dreamily, Herbert.
The father of my mother’s mother, Herbert
A man who never needed an alarm to rise early,
His inner clock beat steadily, unlike his memory
Which chased itself in circles, looping around his balcony
Traveling faster, as he would turn to stare at the distant construction. The tiny people hurrying to catch their mornings, as he peeled his first orange
With the sweet slice of orange
Would find his voice, and tell me “I like to watch the construction–
They start early,
Like me, so I cheer them on from my balcony.”
It awakened a memory
Of the view from a naval ship–and the juice from his orange
Sprayed like the sea off the side of his balcony.
And then I could almost see him, Herbert,
Amidst the chaos of time—and the war that stole his brother too early.
I believed that he could see all that amidst the construction.
He leaned back towards me, “I like to watch the construction–”
The freshness of the memory
Faded like the wispy clouds, “They start early-”
His half-empty bowl of oranges,
Hinted at the passage of time, but Herbert
Continued, “Like me, so I cheer them on from my balcony.”
A distant drill pauses, pulling me back to my own balcony
Facing oak trees and closed windows, only the sounds of unseen construction
Permeate the air, and I yearn for Baltimore, and the distantly moving crane, and Herbert.
I cannot quite grasp a hold of him, or time, or his whirling memories,
But my bowl is full of peels and my fingers are sticky with the juice of oranges.
So I turn my face to the sun and soak as the wind tickles my skin, pleased to be up early