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.