She was the kind of girl you only read about
or dreamed of in a song—I don’t know where but she sends me there summed up my feelings
for Cathy Bertellotti, and because she loved The Beach Boys,
I bought Endless Summer at Sam Nash,
trudging home in a slosh of snow,
my black boots iced over and heavy.
If any girl was perfect, it was her, and if she had only known
our connection, she might have fallen in love
with me. Somehow,
The Beach Boys brought her closer,
the stadium wind whipping around her brown hair,
eyes so sparkling crisp,
it was like I could see into the future.
I was in love with her
that first winter, and she was in love
with my older brother,
who liked her hip-hugger bell-bottoms
snuggling the bow of her hips,
and as the weather warmed to spring,
his arm wrapped around her waist, fingers sliding
through her belt loop, locking on.
In the street,
someone fouled off a baseball at first dusk, bouncing
off a work truck, into a side yard
where my brother and Cathy sat in the bushes, making out
against the cool bricks.
I stared at her unfaithfulness, angry
that she would do this to me when what I wanted was her
to watch me become a great baseball star.
A few weeks later, Cathy moved on
to another boy. My brother
and I started a rock band.
There will always be a heartbreak song
pounding in my head,
a tune on some California beach
I’ve never been to: blonde surfers, bikinis
and towels spread open,
Coke bottles being popped
and guzzled down a burning throat,
where a dog can run wildly in the surf,
and kids will scream in the crashing waves.
Up and down the shore,
toes will wiggle in the sand
and feet will slowly tap the beat
from a transistor radio. Some boys will play Frisbee,
some will toss a football, and there will be a girl—
there’s always a girl lying under an umbrella,
like Cathy, beautiful and oiled, Ray-Bans hiding her eyes
as she follows the boys covertly,
completely ignoring them.
William Walsh teaches in the MFA program at Reinhardt University. His most recent collection of poems is Lost in the White Ruins. His work has appeared in AWP Chronicle, Five Points, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, North American Review, Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere.