J-O-E-Y in the Dark

Close-up of sparklers against blurred background

Close-up of sparklers against blurred background, Getty Images

You could feel the effervescent burns
on your little hand, like incandescent
bubbles from a flaming ginger ale,
as Dad held your wrist,
writing your name in the silver-gold spray
of your first sparklers.
Your eyes would shine in the darkness,
watching the J-O-E-Y form before you,
then seeing the glowing ghost trail
of what would become a shining touchstone
of your childhood’s memories —
the smoky aroma of hotdogs,
of drippy watermelon,
the vinegary sweetness
of Grandma’s German potato salad,
your first taste of beer and
how something barely legal
almost always felt so good.

As I said before, when I was a kid, fireworks were illegal in New York State, though we were allowed to have sparklers. I’m not saying I know this story to be 100% true, but the feelings and images sure as hell are.

2 thoughts on “J-O-E-Y in the Dark

  1. There is such a soft yet nipping sting to this poem that can only be felt, not described. Like most great works this one is such that each can relate to it in individual’s way without loosing its heady aroma. Yes Joe you did touch that hidden chord, do keep on doing it again & again, that is prayer of numb heart!!

  2. I begged Daddy for sparklers one year. (I was terrified of fire crackers or anything with noise.) He finally bought me some and when it got dark, we took them outside to use them. He lit one and started to put it in my hand, but the tingles that came from the sparks terrified me and I ended up barricading myself in my bedroom. Dad was SO mad, but then he understood, put them away for a couple of years until I was no longer afraid of them. I agree with jmbhatt…I too could “feel” those nipping stings once again as I read this poem. It is very evocative of those childhood memories nearly all of us have.

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