Sunday, July 27, 2014

Carolyn Miller: "A Warm Summer in San Francisco"

Although I watched and waited for it every day,

somehow I missed it, the moment when everything reached 

the peak of ripeness. It wasn’t at the solstice; that was only
the time of the longest light. It was sometime after that, when

the plants had absorbed all that sun, had taken it into themselves

for food and swelled to the height of fullness. It was in July,
in a dizzy blaze of heat and fog, when on some nights
it was too hot to sleep, and the restaurants set half their tables

on the sidewalks; outside the city, down the coast,
the Milky Way floated overhead, and shooting stars

fell from the sky over the ocean. One day the garden

was almost overwhelmed with fruition:
My sweet peas struggled out of the raised bed onto the mulch
of laurel leaves and bark and pods, their brilliantly colored

sunbonnets of rose and stippled pink, magenta and deep purple
pouring out a perfume that was almost oriental. Black-eyed Susans

stared from the flower borders, the orange cherry tomatoes

were sweet as candy, the corn fattened in its swaths of silk,

hummingbirds spiraled by in pairs, the bees gave up

and decided to live in the lavender. At the market,

surrounded by black plums and rosy plums and sugar prunes

and white-fleshed peaches and nectarines, perfumey melons
and mangos, purple figs in green plastic baskets,

clusters of tiny Champagne grapes and piles of red-black cherries

and apricots freckled and streaked with rose, I felt tears

come into my eyes, absurdly, because I knew
that summer had peaked and was already passing

away. I felt very close then to understanding 

the mystery; it seemed to me that I almost knew

what it meant to be alive, as if my life had swelled

to some high moment of response, as if I could

reach out and touch the season, as if I were inside

its body, surrounded by sweet pulp and juice,

shimmering veins and ripened skin.

"A Warm Summer in San Francisco" by Carolyn Miller, from Light, Moving. © Sixteen Rivers Press, 2009.  

Art credit: Untitled image from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, photographer unknown (originally color).



  1. So lush and juicy! Gorgeous.
    A tech issue, possibly--at the end of about half the lines there's some kind of graphic character in a square box. If that's supposed to be a special element or punctuation mark it isn't rendering in my Chrome Browser on a laptop, and it doesn't always make sense for punctuation. It's at the end of lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33.

    1. Barb, I surely appreciate how you're reading through the poems. Because the blog isn't active and I need to tend to other work, I usually don't reply to your thoughtful responses, but I definitely read them. In this case, I'm sorry that you're seeing something strange in the text. I'm also looking at it via Chrome on a laptop, and I don't see what you're describing, so unfortunately I can't address it. Be well!


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