Robin Becker
Our Best Selves

                            in memory of Miriam Goodman

Like actors in summer stock
we played our best selves
visiting her rustic cabin.

I lay on the floor in a back
room with the difficult

and played Candyland 
until he went down
for a nap. 
Paula played Bach’s
cello suites
on the screened porch,

each note a mournful
orderly, unfolding. 

*    *    *    *    *    *
On the dock 
with their father
the boys learned

to extract the hook
without tearing
the flesh, to cast

their lines 
in a joyous arc.
Leslie swam 

across the lake, 
her body a rhythmic

her steady plashing
a signal to the terrier
ashore. Miriam hailed 

and embraced summer
and winter people
in the annual

June convocation
at the beach, updates
and invitations

all around.
They could see
she was sick, bewigged, 

but she was here,
now, steadying herself
against the piling,

going in slowly, 
the burning chill
on her thighs,

on her hips, her waist,
as she studied the familiar
lake, its inlets, pines 

and boulders vivid 
as the cabin’s manifest,
the list of essential linens

and batteries and cast iron 
pots passed on each year—
revised and copied—

for her beloveds.

*    *    *    *    *

Grilled vegetables, 
Beet soup, corn, and nine
of us round the table

pouring and laughing, 
stories of the day 
taking on their initial

color and flavor
before we cook them 
in legend and myth,

summer’s brine.
Beneath a full moon,
inside their tent,

the boys undress,
and we see their limbs—
animated cave paintings

against the tent’s fabric—
or a shadowplay 
enacting one summer day.

Scrabble players
assemble at the table.
This year Jules wins

every game, and when
she laughs, her red hair 
ripples as it did 

when she was ten
and wild as her eldest 
awake in his sleeping bag,

looking up at his grandmother’s
sky, imagining the salamanders
he’ll catch tomorrow.

Found In Volume 38, No. 06
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Robin Becker
About the Author

Robin Becker is the author of five collections of poems including The Horse Fair (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000) and the chapbook Venetian Blue (Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, 2002).  Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Penn State University, she serves as Poetry Editor of The Women’s Review of Books.