Jean L Kreiling
FOR WESTHAMPTON BEACH, NEW YORK
Although it’s now an upscale bakery,
and even back then its red awnings claimed
that it was “Seeley’s,” it will always be
just “Gloria’s” to us: a shop we named
for its proprietor, the gray-haired, glum
provider of our daily Wonder Bread
and wisdom. She sold milk, watch bands, and gum;
informed us who was drinking, who was dead;
glared at both Newsday and the Daily News;
and always stocked Pepto, Clark Bars, cheap toys,
toothpaste. She’d fill your bag and add her views
on traffic, tourists, and skateboarding boys.
Her store was dark and cramped; the whole place smelled
of old dust and opinions firmly held.
II. Six Corners School
My father was assigned, in World War II,
to be a lookout, watching from his school’s
high windows with some other kids. Their view
was lofty, but soon they’d be viewed as fools.
For Dad sent a report of something flying
through our town’s quiet skies. Was it a bomb,
a German parachute? The mortifying
truth, soon broadcast by school-wide intercom,
was that he’d seen a weather balloon—no threat,
one of our own. Years later, Mom became
a teacher at that school; she wouldn’t get
to watch for bombs, and never earned Dad’s fame.
By then they both were busy mediating
their children’s wars—petty, but irritating.
III. Westhampton Free Library
i.m. Judge Harold Medina
In villages like ours, wealth sometimes lurks
behind tall hedges, unseen and unshared.
But funds for our July fourth fireworks
came from a thoughtful local judge who paired
that gift of noisy summer celebration
with quieter, timeless philanthropy:
he made more than one sizable donation
for new wings on our public library.
We’d walk down there with Mom (she loved the place),
step into silence, and breathe atoms shed
by paper, ink, and readers, each bookcase
his gift. The judge admired, his obit said,
the odes of Horace; our own favorites waited
in rooms his generosity created.
IV. Baby Moon Pizza
Theirs may just be the worst of pizza pies—
with cheese like rubber and a greasy crust;
too much of their cuisine would jeopardize
your health, I’m sure. But their trade is robust,
most likely due to that highway location:
on your way home, it beckons, and once more
you fall for it, hungry anticipation
defeating your good judgment. And before
you’ve swallowed that first mouthful, you regret
the dollars spent, the calories ingested,
and the impatience that made you forget
that stones would be more easily digested.
But it has fans. My brother still insists
the pizza’s great—though his heartburn persists.
V. Sense of Direction
I grew up knowing south was toward the water:
the ocean, just a mile down the road,
drew me as if I were a mortal daughter
born to Poseidon, whose ancient code
of pulsing thunder signaled me. I heard
his summons, and of course I knew the way;
the sea’s familiar magnetism stirred
my thirst and led me southward to the spray.
West was toward the city, poor pretender
to glory; north was thatched with scrubby pine;
east was island’s end, a distant splendor;
south was my home. I’ve had to redefine
geography: from where I live today,
the sea lies east—but I still know the way.
JEAN L. KREILING grew up in Westhampton Beach and currently lives in Massachusetts; she is the author of two poetry collections, Arts & Letters & Love (2018) and The Truth in Dissonance (2014). Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies, and has been honored with the Able Muse Write Prize, the String Poet Prize, three New England Poetry Club prizes, and several other awards.