“Here, where the air is loaded with iodine and where the ultra-violet ray is ever-present in our smiling sunshine, your health and happiness is our business.”
    Sun Fun in New Jersey
    1946 official publication  of the New Jersey Resort Association


swimming sideways
ripple the surface of murky bay water
at night.
We sit close to each other
on a wooden bulkhead
by the road.
A haze separates us
from the stars & from
the horizon.  We know
where New York City is
because we have seen it
from this place.
Tonight we are swimming
like the crabs.
They are drawn toward the street lights.
We have a reddish half-moon,
weak, but pregnant
with coming fullness.

The tide rises no higher today,
late afternoon sun shares the sky
with the moon.  A gull hangs
on steady wings, then plummets
to the water, ascending
with a paltry fish in its beak.
These long shadows are friendly.
I think of you, of the cormorant
that once gazed into your knowing eyes.
Now I must put down my pen
to slap at a fly on my arm.


If you go to the carnival, pin a dollar bill
on your father’s coat. His place is between
the calzones & the cannoles, candles flicker
at his feet, he is guarded by many old women.

When you pin a dollar bill to your father’s coat,
he will not guarantee your happiness,
but the howling of dogs cannot frighten you,
crows no longer bear sad messages.

The dollar bills resemble green scales
because your father is really a fish
out of water, he is too dry to cry.
This is the secret everyone knows.

Your father is married only to the moon.
If you want to please him, draw very close
& whisper these words in his ear:
"Father, I have neither arms nor legs."

“I’m going to the shore
on my vacation,” she says,
“for two whole weeks.
I’ll really get sunburned.”
She shrugs her shoulders,
twisting herself as if
mildly discomforted.
“My back itches,” she says,
turning to look at me.
As she raises her arms,
I admire the smooth, white skin
showing at her waist
where her sweatshirt lifts.
“Buy a Chinese backscratcher,”
I advise.  “They sell them
on the boardwalk.”


In the crack between the end
of the ballgame & sleep,
TV glow flickering on a white wall,
an Ocean City appears in pastels
with  beige houses built of sand,
their grainy textures crumbling,
& a blue sky, always blue except
where there is rain, gray clouds
dropping puffs of gray haze
as they float over gray waves.
Beach chairs on a front porch
guarded by victorian trimmings,
a postcard rendered in flesh tones
of pale young hands & faces,
sullenly playing gin rummy
through an afternoon drizzle
in "America's Family Resort,"
no alcoholic beverages sold,
no movies on Sunday, the theater
turns  non-denominational,
competing with the pinball arcade.
How long ago? A four cent postage stamp.
Cappy Dick regrets to inform you
that you are now too old to enter
the newspaper coloring contest.


Twice in one week I was groped,
first by a fat ugly man
in waist deep water off the beach
in front of the Ritz-Carlton,
then by Susan from South Philly
up near the Million Dollar Pier.
She was my Candy Girl & I wished
her name was Marlena, two teens
the Four Seasons loved on one record.
But that year was mostly November,
first Kennedy killed, then Frankie the drummer
swore The Beatles were fakes
who would never have hits in  America.
The boardwalk was different in '64.


You were dying in Atlantic City,
your island of shadows & broken piers.
You held you first great-grandchild,
heard his name, wept at the sight of him,
but all of our names were fading.
Our Lady Star of the Sea
was the last time I saw you.

Our family fought over costume jewelry,
a television, Aunt Bella said
we did not deserve the money,
I put mine into a black Ford van
& several months of cheap living.
Your curses stuck to her old skin,
your love was as deep as your hate.
I envied your penmanship.

You never saw Ireland. It was
your parents abandoned the place,
bought the passages, sailed on the ship.
Electric trolleys, the Liberty Bell,
how did they find Philadephia?

all poems © Bob Rixon