Night Sunburn

From the collection published in 2021, And Don’t Come Back.

Night Sunburn

jousting with that recurring nightmare
squelched my sleep
that first blister pink night
I spent at the seashore.
Oh that sunburn. The sheets
toss-and-turn rough and scratchy so that
I sleep dragged down sandpaper sidewalks
in the abrading dark so that
when I wake
I am surprised not to
shake out infinitesimal quartz sparkles
from my dream-wrapped
nightgown. The floor glitters.

zinc oxide and sunscreen and I –
we venture out
aloe, someone had told me, use aloe
the second day
and enjoying the cool green breezes
I grant the horrific sunlight a kinder view –
with my tender skin carefully wrapped around me
I settle under the blue and white stripes
of an umbrella bought from a boardwalk shop.
The beach glitters.


8 thoughts on “Night Sunburn

    • Thank you. I can’t tell you how many times I have burned, blistered, peeled, and done that over and over (pretty much all of it before I was 21). I was a lifeguard in the 1970’s when there wasn’t much you could use to protect your skin other than zinc oxide and before that I spent my summers outdoors as a competitive swimmer, hours in the sun. No one worried about it then.

  1. You are always fantastic at evoking certain sensory experiences, visual, of course, but also aural and taste and smell. In this poem you have done an amazing job of evoking the sensory experience of having itchy, sunburned skin.

    • Thank you. The topic has started me think about the zinc oxide we used to put on our faces, especially noses (mine was perpetually so sunburned that it bled when it peeled). It had a certain smell. Otherwise, there was nothing you could do to prevent sunburn and in fact, no one really wanted to because everyone knew you had to burn to tan, right? And a tan was important.

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