Sestina for Camp

Location

The fragrant zest of pine assaults my nose

as I exit the dingy white van. Now, at last, I know

where I am again, the gleaming lake and lawless country road my limits,

though meaningless, useful only in barring others from this land; nothing could lead

me to forsake camp’s dirty feet and creaky cabin doors. Sand rubbed rough between

my toes reminds me that, finally, I am back home.

 

Later, huddled in my bed, letters will rain down on me, flat hailstones from home,

comfort and yet stinging reminders of all that I now escape. I wrinkle my nose

at dad’s sentimental notions: Mom says she misses you more than I do, but between

you and me, that’s not possible. I am the young turtle, wanting more, knowing

I must leave home, but no matter how far I wander, something always leads

me back to my beginning. I meander off into the lake, hoping to nudge my limit

 

just a little farther back, to make this haven that much bigger, and limit

my proximity to old ties. But there’s no need to concern myself with thoughts of home

because for now, this is my home. I am liberated, will follow where my sandy feet lead

me, and trust their judgment. A canoe noses

its way through the water lilies, green coasters for wet birds’ feet, and it knows

just where it’s going. I follow, darting between

 

kayaks and other swimmers, caught between

consciousness and complete oblivion. I’m sure the canoe knows its limits,

and I can only hope they are the same as mine. After a minute, I know

the canoe is heading back to shore, back towards its home,

and I figure it’s about time for dinner—maybe its propeller’s nose

was just tickled by the smell of hamburgers or chicken, and it leads

 

the way to the dining hall. Callie is standing up when I arrive, ready to lead

us in the Superman Grace. I slip into a seat at my table between

Leona and Emily just in time for the “amen,” and a familiar scent meets my nose:

it’s pizza night! My cabin of friends and big eaters understands that only a limited

amount of pizza was made, so we shove it onto our plates, its new home

until it is eaten, and send the gofer back for more—a “dump and run.” Little do we know

 

that camp pizza isn’t worth hoarding. The activity tonight, we all know,

is a campfire, and we are signed up to stand in front of the camp and lead

“Hey, Josephine.” Here’s to you sweet Sue, I remember you too. And I’m coming home,

so you won’t be all alone. My eyes well up at the song, and between

verses I greet my friends’ glances with a teary smile, then take a seat. I know my limits,

and if I stay up there any longer, I’ll embarrass myself. As tears roll off my nose,

 

I know that nothing, not even my real home, will ever feel as homey as this, and between

songs, I grasp that this eternal weight on my shoulders always leads

                            me back to my birthplace, my need for distance is my limit,

but my real home will come to mind whenever the smell of pine hits my nose.

Comments

for King and Country

This is so cool! It's so tough to explain, let alone capture, the way camp becomes a second home despite all its rough edges. Yet I think you did it! Keep writing!

Need to talk?

If you ever need help or support, we trust CrisisTextline.org for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741