An Ode to “Up North”

port austin 2012 taylor martinez from mapinet 2
Going Up North

We packed our stuff as blue collar kids do,
in old board beer cases, names scribbled in blue;
We emptied fat piggy banks, I grabbed one more book,
the Dodge Dart all filled up, after one last look,

we took to the road, unending flow of concrete,
knowing sand would soon cover our soft winter feet;
the menagerie of numbers led us to M-53,
Detroit now behind, we headed straight to the sea.

We passed rows of meadow, cornfield, and orchard,
my adolescent me, so romantic, so tortured.
Changing scenery showed me there’s more than one home:
my future had comforts tucked behind the unknown.

Finally Port Austin, we drove right past the wharf.
The lake glistened before us, we were duly “up north.”
Entering the cottage, a dusty beach-front home,
we rummaged through cases, stripped off our clothes.

Mom and Dad smiled, stopped in our tracks:
no water and sunshine ’til we helped with the tasks:
crates, baskets, and boxes all hauled to their place,
then bikini-clad girls could run ran straight to the lake.

Waves, white caps, shells, and water glass galore;
swimming, and tanning, and strolling the shore;
the crazy hat contest, mom offered the prize,
after dinners dad chauffeured the best sunset drives.

A week on Lake Huron, I’d refresh and refuel,
it softened the angst of this tough teen-aged girl;
I’d watch ‘awkward’ exit, go out with the tide;
I’d convince myself, surely, I could be less shy.

We’d walk to the country store, giggle till we dropped
bought Slow Pokes for the week, and bottles of pop,
candy necklaces that colored our oiled necks pink,
then cigarettes ‘for mom,’ we’d order with a wink.

The nasty sand flies acted as if they’d been invited,
even wake-up thunderstorms left us all delighted.
Racko, rummy, ‘red pop’ – such afternoon reprieve,
dad grilled the burgers before we’d call out ‘hide and seek!’

Lake nights are unfamiliar with needled city glare;
they know layered quiet, starry breezes for my hair.
My poet learned to listen on secret sunrise ambles,
how to paddle words and swim away from life’s frazzle.

Yet effortless and soothing, and never enough,
languid lake days ended, and departure splashed rough.
For years those vacations freed me from my blues,
forty-five years later I believe they still do.

I crave water, wave, sand as I listen to my desert.
The river calls me now as if I was tethered
to the rush, the gurgles, steadfast friends of mine,
someday I’ll return, go “up north” one more time.

IMG_20180729_203455447 (1)

Top Photo by Taylor Martinez on
Photo of me at the cottage by one Mackler or the other, a photo deeply pinked by time, I softened it as best I could. 1975?.


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