The Ozone Café

I was there in the summer of ‘65
my other self, a little younger in the crowd,
distinguished looking in pedal-pushers and
burgundy rinse. I posed when the Café was
empty, but basically it was pimples, splotchy
skin, looking for a boy, definable mainly
by my nervous habit of floor-gazing every time
a bronzed surfer walked in.

But years later, I couldn’t face my old haunt,
demolished for cars, our happy days Café gone
to ground. It was pin-ball machines, ivy mirrors,
hamburgers, real meat. Hollywood, a walled America,
a doe-eyed Gable on the screen. James Dean had that cute
mimetic look. Marilyn imploded crystal pleats, inveigling
her sweet act of tease. And Greta Garbo, well,
she had that arching eyebrow we all hoped for as kids.

In red-buttoned seats, all us girls, as I remember,
tittered like twits, kids high on salted take-away chips,
ice-cream sodas cooling January heat.
We spoon licked thick-shakes frothed up in metal,
spun the jukebox to make Elvis rattle. Some days
it was moon-honey-love right down the back, with
the Greek owner’s chastising finger waving about.
You should have seen that quick release of
a table hand squeeze.

I don’t know how to keep from spilling this,
but we made love in our younger dreams, the sixties
no different to now, except in our town streets
bounced us quickly towards adulthood
on a seamy Valiant seat.

Helen Hagemann

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