Summer of Gilbert & Sullivan
by Cathie Sandstrom

He stood tall and loose-limbed. A reddish cast
to his boy’s beard, he played the Pirate King.
I was the one home from college but not home.
A military family, we had moved from Carolina
to Texas in the middle of the year. I knew no one.
Those San Antonio summer nights,
                                                      when the heat broke
he’d come for me late and we’d drive into the older
neighborhoods, quiet because even at that hour
the air still hung warm and flannelly. We’d park
and walk empty streets, strolling beneath
strung-out cones of yellow light, mimosa-like
huisache trees lacing the black asphalt.
                                                      Once we climbed
over someone’s garden wall, sat on the ground
against brick to watch the constellations and talk.
He asked me if I thought I was different and I said
yes. We were not yet twenty, still becoming, our lives
barely begun, stretching out endless, unknowable.

He asked if I thought we were chosen, our heightened
senses—a new way of being—and I said yes because
that’s how it felt. And so he laid upon me
his great sadness whose edges
matched my own.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, at 17, Cullowhee, North Carolina.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Place marks me. Until college, we moved about every two years. My adult life took me to Europe for ten years, keeping nearly the same pattern. I feel like I carry the past not in objects that surround me, but rather in sense-memory. When something snags on my mind, I notice, wonder why it caught, and then look for ways to amplify that and communicate it. First drafts are always by hand, frequently unlined, often more than I need. It’s like the writing has to lead me to the kernel I’m looking for. After that, endless reexamination and countless revisions.


As a military brat, Cathie Sandstrom has never been “from around here.” She’s lived in Japan, England, Denmark, Germany, and in 10 states. Even though she’s now lived for many years in the same house, she still expects orders to arrive from the Pentagon any day. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Southern Review, Ekphrasis, Runes, Lyric, Comstock Review, and Cider Press Review, among others. Anthologies include Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond and Coiled Serpent, among others. A poem with essay appears in Master Class: The Poetry Mystique. Her manuscript All the Land Around Us was a finalist for Perugia Press. Finalist in the Poets & Writers’ California Writers Exchange, she was a Poet of Merit, Muriel Craft Bailey Award. Her poem “You, Again” is in the artists’ book collection at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and in the collection of the University of Southern California.