Cumberland County Kingdom

From the Kezar Pond to Saco Bay.
Old Orchard Beach to Bailey’s Island.
The land of my youth
The summer camp on Watchic Pond
Built by my grandfather.
An orphan became a frontline surgeon in WWI France.
A retreat from the horrors to Maine
With a nurse, my grandmother.
A noble woman from a 9th generation Maine family.

Gorham was their refuge
They had a family
And moved to a huge farmhouse
In Westbrook under the shadow of the SD Warren papermill.

Cumberland County was a land of tall pines.
My best friend was Chaney.
He found a basket of dead puppies.
We threw them into Portland Harbor.
The tide took them to sea.
My innocence was destroyed by death
In 1960 Chaney drowned in Sebago.
He was only eight.
I never saw his gravestone.

Four years later a big-breasted girl working at a drugstore counter asked,
“Will you walk me home?”
At 12 a walk was a walk.
I stuffed my comic in my jean’s back pocket.
And drained my glass of vanilla soda.
I accompanied the girl along the Presumpscot River past the paper mill.
No houses.
No voices.
Only the grinding of the wood saws across the river
And the murmur of cars along Route 25.
We stood in the woods.
She lifted her dress over her head.
Her breasts rose as puff pillows.
I ran.
Ran fast chased by her laughter.
Running to my grandmother’s house.
Upstairs to a bedroom with sea murals
I lay in bed.
My innocence gone.

In 1975 my grandmother passed away.
The camp was sold.
The house on Main Street too.
Chaney’s family moved north.
I went south.
To New York.
A city of too few pines to soothe old ghosts
Of an exile from Cumberland County.

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