A Taste Summer

A Taste Summer

Oysters, exposed tide flats in high sun, the stink so encompassing you think it’s yours. Daddy butter, my father’s mash of butter, salt, and pepper, a slippery contraction for eating with corn on the cob.

Corn on the cob, rush of starches from the pierced kernel, sweeter taken with no mitigating condiments. Edgy bitterness in a cucumber freshly exhumed from black dirt, reminder no sweetness is unalloyed.

Teeth on beachgrass. White film of salt, ridged underside of blade, a point sharp as words intended to make pain.

Barbecue abuse. Chicken breast briquettes, when sugary marinade turns to carbon and dresses moist white flesh in an armor of ashes. The beer teenagers drink, cheap and thin. Wind rising from the water as the sun goes down, dinner at the long table served with gooseflesh. The taste of family. Smoke follows beauty, filling nostrils, mouth, eyes. All day tomorrow you will smell of fire.

Every fat sweet cherry the last one you will eat, until the box is empty and the diarrhea starts. Truth or dare. The punishment is eating horsetails, genus equisetum, small cousin of the palm. How much the individual potato salad tells of its maker. Mangoes so bright and slippery they feel like sex.

My favorite birthday cake is tall angel food, swathed in whipped cream, encrusted with strawberries. The smell of coffee grounds and eggshell mixed with damp earth becomes a flavor when the lettuce grows. August confirms the tomato is a fruit. At Alki beach, a brazen seagull rips half a cheeseburger out of my hand.

Birdsong at summer dawn so thickly matted, your fingertips can feel its texture. Sometimes touch invades the tongue.

In Scotland, my friend hides behind the house and eats a whole batch of butterscotch pudding. She is 21 years old and has four siblings. I never eat organ meats or boogers. When I lick my forearm after swimming, I taste the sea. My mother puts mayonnaise on everything.

Of everything about picking blackberries, what I remember most is taking off my shirt, feeling the hot slap of afternoon against my shyness. When I bite into a fresh pencil, shards of yellow paint litter my tongue. Two boyfriends whose kisses taste different, acid and base.

I wish I had not drunk so much gin.

Remember when we almost set the abandoned house on fire and how our piss hissed when it hit the flames? Sometimes it is hard to graciously feed boys who want to f— my daughter. Spending our entire allowance on Lik M Aid and eating it all in one sitting gives us a big stomachache. Everyone who turns the crank gets to eat new ice cream off the wooden paddles. In summer the imagination of hunger is as hard to catch as the shadow of a crow.

Oakland resident Joyce Thompson is a much-published writer, high-tech marketer, Reiki master, and most recently, author of StartUp, the Musical! (now recruiting songwriters and seeking angel investors). Summer is her favorite flavor.

A Wedding Sampler | by Judy Bebelaar

A Different Light | by Cynthia Overbeck Bix

Taste Summer | by Joyce Thompson

The Water’s Fine | by Rachel Trachten

Finer Than Frog Hair | by Wichita Sims

Coloring in the Details | by Joanne Catz Hartman

Flavor of the Moment | by Nancy McKay

Faces of the East Bay