(with apologies to former American poet laureate Billy Collins …)
Keep your tropical climes, your sun-kissed shores.
Keep your beach blankets, your coconut-scented sunscreen, your floppy-brimmed hats.
I have no yen for poolside chaises longues; for inner tubes or floats.
Keep your swimming noodles, your water wings, your snorkel fins.
Down with nose plugs, ear plugs, bathing caps, gritty sand between your toes.
Begone picnic baskets, gentle breezes, wind chimes glinting in the sun.
Why encourage your skin to brown and burn and peel?
Why risk injury wading barefoot into a cryptic sea?
Why seek out excessive heat and forego cooling shade?
Why drink chilled Chardonnay or lemonade?
Why leave all the comforts of home for warmer lands — your resorts, your cruiseships, your surfs, your sands?
See the sun-drunk tourists in their expensive shades, smiling giddily as they mill aimlessly down winding foreign streets, clutching rumpled maps, toting oversized bags. They restlessly seek out something new, not content to bask in the pleasures of home.
How I pity them, sweating in their walking shorts and sundresses, spaghetti straps slipping off well-oiled shoulders, swollen feet spilling out the sides of too-tight sandals, blisters forming on tired soles.
There are too many colours, too many smells: a fragrant hint of magnolia mingles with the spicy smell of grilled kebabs at roadside trolleys. The iodine scent of the sea competes with the bougainvillea’s bawdy perfume. The malt flavour of ice-cold beer is a counterpoint to the fresh clean tang of crisply fried calamari.
I want none of it.
No blue skies, no warm riffling breezes, no umbrella drinks, no icy slices of watermelon.
No patios, no swimming pools, no hammocks, no Adirondack chairs, no porch swings.
No beach blanket books, no fruit-flavoured Popsicles, no charcoal barbecues, no lawn bowling.
No garden gnomes. No water skis. No surfing. No windboards. No bathing suits. No flip-flops.
Instead, give me gale-force winds, the kind that take tender young plants and bend them full in half or — better yet — rip them right out of their potted-earth homes and fling them to the sky, never to be seen again.
Give me pounding rain, the kind that takes stain off a deck, turns parks into rice paddies, fields into streams.
Give me cold rain, drenching rain that leaves exposed skin white and wrinkled with a faint blue tinge. Rain that rushes ice-cold down the back of your neck. Rain that pools on roads and leads to body-soaking splashes from passing cars.
Rain that goes on day and night, threatening to take the paint off your car; rain that turns dogs into shrunken, sodden, fousty-smelling creatures whose fur never quite dries.
Give me drizzle, too, the fine misty drizzle that soaks you to the skin in seconds, that leaves plants beaded with tiny droplets, that makes walkways and steps slick and treacherous.
The kind of drizzle that brings slugs out in droves; voracious slugs that chomp their way through your new perennials — that is, the ones that have survived the gales — leaving nothing but ragged, lacy remnants of plants in their slimy slug wakes.
And snails, don’t forget the snails. Snails crunching underfoot, the kind that eschew weeds and instead laboriously inch their way up trees to devour leaves and blossoms.
And the fog — oh the thick, suffocating fog. The kind of anaconda fog that snakes in through The Narrows and smothers everything in its path. Whole city blocks disappear. Where is Confederation Building? Where are the Southside Hills? Where is downtown?
It’s the kind of claustrophobia-inducing fog that muffles birdsong, turning it into faint and eerie echoes, incites the sonorous moan of the foghorn, wraps you up in clinging cobwebs.
The kind of fog that can drive you mad; turns streets into tunnels, masks traffic lights, headlights and moose. A fog that attempts to lure motorists to their deaths.
Give me bone-chilling temperatures that — at night — flirt with frost. Give me plant-withering, shrub-shrivelling cold, the kind that makes you reach for woolen gloves and thermostats.
Give me St. John’s in June.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.