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David Mason

The Summer of Love

I went to sea in the Summer of Love
in a boat with my Boy Scout troop.
That summer I was only twelve,
our boat was a rusty sloop.

The island where we spent a week
was twenty miles from home,
but in our minds we were refugees
from vaguely exotic doom.

A dozen boys who lolled about
on beaches, lied about girls,
stared at any passing yacht
chanting the latest Beatles,

we liked the underwater voice
of “Yellow Submarine,”
which was all the DJs ever chose
to play in the afternoon.

Our scoutmaster, Mr. MacIntosh,
went quietly mad. He drank
from tidal pools and chased the fish,
his eyes seemed never to blink.

The fathers who came to take him away
in a little trawling boat
gave our troop permission to stay
three days with no adult.

With no adult, what savages
we were! Our boyish lies
grew like grotesques, the vestiges
of epic ecstasies!

But sometimes Mr. MacIntosh
came back in our fireside tales.
The world of grown-ups seemed awash
in trouble; some took pills,

some gassed themselves in their garages.
Recalling those who were mad,
we poked our sticks in the campfire’s ashes
and felt unaccountably sad.

(Later I read that the Summer of Love
was the summer of the damned;
sixteen thousand American boys
had died in Viet Nam.)

We dreamed after girls on the passing yachts
and waited in the shade,
and when the adults came back in boats
to rescue us, we were glad.

On the wharf at home we bought ice cream cones,
shook the sand from our shoes.
We went on back to casual lawns,
Monday meetings, other friends,
the feeling that summer never ends
and we would never lose.

The Dream of Arrival (from “Poems from Greece”)

Awake, I did not know the land
surrounding me: the rocky coves,
sun shimmering off marble sand,
the cypresses and mourning doves.

Stunned by it all, I stared. Around
were cliffs I felt I should have known—
but for doves and waters not a sound,
no highway, house or telephone.

A stranger, eyes behind his shades,
greeted me in words I knew
as I half-knew these sunny glades,
yet by some instinct I withdrew

and asked what island this could be,
hid my longing to be recognized.
I gauged him as I would the sea
until he spoke the name I prized:


Dissembling, I was home,
all I longed for so near at hand.
I saw Penelope, the loom—
then woke, and did not know the land.

I live preparing to arrive,
suffer the deaths of many friends,
survive, surprised to be alive.
My story’s told, but never ends.