By Joe Perrone, Jr.
I first saw Manhattan Beach as a youth,
With its old couples strolling the sand,
Smiling faces advertising their love.
I watched as young mermaids,
Waded bravely into the water,
Wearing oversized tee shirts turned inside out,
To hide the names of high schools,
That everyone knew they went to, anyway.
In the public lockers, men with brown faces,
Flashed gap-toothed smiles,
And pushed their way beneath my shower,
While miniature replicas tripped over my feet,
Unabashed in their zeal to join their fathers,
Who, when I protested, mouth agape,
Generously offered to share their soap,
And bought a smile to my face, in spite of myself.
Old men with waves of endless wrinkles,
Baked in the sun and leered jealously,
At bronzed demigods with no wrinkles at all.
Children built glorious castles in the sand,
And cried as they crumbled with the tide.
Then, as if lacking memory or common sense,
Rebuilt them once again, it seemed,
Without the slightest worry or care.
On the boardwalk, vendors with red faces and tired feet,
Presented white smiles, punctuated by flashes of gold,
As they peddled hot soda and cold knishes,
And wiped their greasy hands on off-white aprons,
Saying “Thanking you, Mister” in broken English.
Then, inspired by their modest success,
They pushed their clattering carts over the planks,
As orange and blue umbrellas snapped in the breeze.
Yesterday, I saw Manhattan Beach as a man,
And was amused by its lack of stature,
Reflecting how, as a kid from Brooklyn,
I had marveled at its magnitude.
I walked along the edge of the ebbing sea,
Soothed my feet in the outgoing tide,
And scanned the horizon for something familiar,
Instead I found some old sand castles—still intact.