El Segundo, California – Fin Ryals

As a child, my favorite summertime souvenir was
Not seashells or sand crabs but
The tar that stuck to my salty feet
Like a sailor’s tattoos
And I’d dance upon the web-like shadow of
The water treatment plant
That I mistook as part of the refinery
In hopes of staining myself permanently

My efforts were no match for my mother who
Armed with a rusty can of acetone and a blue
Hand towel battle-scarred and fossilized from
Past summer ventures lifted my feet against my
Will and scrubbed away tar pits with the sharpness of
A stingray’s barb my throat filled with fumes from the
Chemical concoction used to besmirch the beach’s mark on me and
I’d cry not from the galvanic aroma of the acetone
But from my taunting, freshly cleaned flesh that
Lingered on where the tar once did

I worked at Barnes and Noble for a number of months where I held the unofficial title of “resident literary scholar” due to my educational background. I was nonetheless exposed to contemporary works of fiction and poetry that I would not have encountered otherwise. And I take great pride in knowing that I exposed customers to older works of fiction that they too would not have encountered.

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