Lately, I’ve been thinking about camp

It was summer and,
At seventeen,
We bickered over who most deserved
To operate the cotton candy machine at the camp carnival.

After dark, we took shifts.
One kept watch for flashlights coming down the hill.
The rest slipped in and out of the water,
Breaking the surface of the lake with wet skin,
Breaking the silence with gasps of laughter and shushing.

On brisker Berkshire nights,
We congregated beneath the covered bridge
To assemble bits of birch and hemlock.
Sculpting flames like Bernini.
Our fountain spout fire.

Some of us smoked up.
Some of us blew bubbles.
All with equal authority over our inferno,
The consensus always, “throw more on.”

Before lights out,
We tucked in,
We dried homesick tears,
We sang bedtime songs,
We read insipid inspirational poetry,
We pointed out constellations.

After Taps,
We stargazed two by two.
With our eyes closed,
Our mouths open,
Our hands warm beneath fleece
With someone else’s name sewn in the collar.
That’s the buddy system.

We stayed up too late.
We smelled like lake water and burning leaves.
We kept secrets and promises.
We sang the same songs.

But none of that mattered
When it came to the cotton candy machine.