I can still hear my mother’s voice
sifting its way through the orange grove,
broken by dusk and distance, calling
me back to the villa on the hill
away from my August friends:
local boys who didn’t need sunscreen,
who caught water snakes with their bare hands
and carried frogs in their pants pockets.
"Come inside," she would say, "it’s almost dark."
Inside the screened porch, safe
from mosquitoes and night sounds,
glowing comfort awaited:
smell of fried garlic, rattle of dice
rolling on the wooden backgammon board,
and moist, sticky tiles under my bare feet.
Later, tucked into cool, damp sheets,
my little sister asleep,
I listened to the ebb and flow
of adult conversations downstairs,
cornices of excitement followed by lulls
filled with the sea’s silence, distant
waves crashing, mute on the deserted shore.
Strange, that as autumn leaves
bruise in New England, I can still
taste the air of a Caspian summer,
heavy with humidity and salt.
Strange, that as time thickens, the distance
between us shrinks.