Boardwalk by Michelle Young

I had heard The Drifters’ song,
played Monopoly—knew
the expensive property was paired
with Park Place, that rent
for houses and hotels could
bankrupt a person.

But I didn’t know the aroma
of buttered popcorn could blanket two blocks,
make me feel like a cartoon character
floating along a stream of steam,
nose up,
eyes closed,
wiggling my feet in the air
until I was face-to-face
with a small red and white paper bag
piled high with kernels of crunchy, puffed cloud;
hot starch coated in yellow oil and powdered salt…
truly, the most potent catnip for humans.

I saw small children with cotton candy—
bouffant spider webs of baby blue and pink
stuck on their hands,
around their mouth,
in their mother’s hair,
making sticky the stains
of chocolate and soda
that had dripped down their shirt
hours ago in the afternoon sun.

Candy makers pulled saltwater taffy
on a silver machine, the movements as mesmerizing
as a hypno-spinner from a Cracker Jacks box.
Metal arms turned cartwheels,
synchronized like cogs of a cuckoo clock
never clashing, only
s t r e t c h,
s  t  r  e  t  c  h  i  n  g
the hot sugar to perfection.

Suckers the size of dinner plates swirled
ropes of bright red, blue, yellow, and green,
the only flavor description “sweet”.
It would take me a month to consume,
maybe less if I crunched it,
or shared it with the ants.

Lovers strolled hand-in-hand as the sun set,
electric lights turning the street
into a carnival for all appetites.
An elderly couple rested on a wooden bench,
ate ice cream cones
as their eyes spoke the language
of memories, sparkled, recalling their first stroll
together on the boardwalk.
The gentleman’s hat sat low,
he didn’t notice their Chihuahua
licking his cold treat
as he stared at his beautiful bride.

I laughed, blew powdered sugar
from a supper of funnel cake
onto my airbrushed souvenir t-shirt,
knew I would visit again next summer.


Image credit: Photograph of Ocean City, Maryland’s boardwalk (southern end) in June 2012 (by John C. Mannone)

Michelle Young
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