postcard hamlin lake1
Hamlin Lake, Michigan, 1940s
by Joan Colby

A smell of damp, of mildew
Permeated the cottage, lakeside,
Built of simple unfinished planks,
Nothing polished or complicated,
Floorboards, thin walls
So every conversation could be overheard.

A red pump by the chipped sink
That groaned to expel tinged water.
A woodstove my mother cursed
As we stood dripping from our lake baths
Holding bars of Ivory, thin towels wrapped
Around our waists.

The beds were headed with bars
Like jails. Hard in places,
Sunken in others so you could spend
The night spinning from one pole to another
Like a confused explorer.

Outside, the splintery dock
Where father diving into waters
Surprisingly shallow that year
Nearly broke his neck. A rowboat
With heavy recalcitrant oars
To tug us across the lake for supplies.
The splash splash of progress.
Our spitz shuddering in the prow,
He’d fallen in once and remembered.

White birch whose bark could peel
Into testaments on which we wrote
Our having funs and see you soons
Anything with a stamp could be posted
Father contested and was correct.

Rainy afternoons on the porch,
The screens plinging with out of tune
Instruments, we played Sorry,
The colored jacks marched on the board
In militant steps or landing badly
As paratroops were sent back
The way a child was sent to bed
Too early, sleepless, listening
To the mysterious things they said.

IMAGE: Hamlin Lake, Michigan, postcard, available at ebay.

joan colby

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010).One of her poems is a winner of the 2014 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She is the editor of Illinois Racing News, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 14 books, including Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press), which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize; Properties of Matter, Aldrich Press (Kelsay Books); Bittersweet (Main Street Rag Press), and The Wingback Chair (FutureCycle Press). She has two new chapbooks Ah Clio (Kattycompus Press) and Pro Forma (Foothills Press) as well as a full-length collection Ribcage (Glass Lyre Press), which received the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Colby is also an associate editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press.