Jersey Shore

This entry is part 19 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life


Direct link to video on Vimeo.

Another one-minute movie. The postcards displayed are all from the Garden State and span the 20th century. Here’s the text of the poem:

Jersey Shore

the shore is a kind of road
that leads only to itself

the sound of its traffic
is said to be soothing

its sand grains attract
hourglass figures

we bury each other
up to the neck

gulls & gamblers take turns
screaming at the sun

we eat white sandwiches
& colored ice

there are rides no one
has ever dared get off of

there are entire hotels
patronized only by crabs

paperbacks sprawl
face-down like drunks

we hold hands & walk
into the surf

it’s the only way to leave
without paying a toll

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10 Replies to “Jersey Shore”

  1. Quite fine (and shaming to us all that you produced in a day). Particularly love the sand grains attracting houseglass figures, the white sandwiches and colored ice.

    Inspired torso background! Great way to reinforce segue from the beach to our ultimate return to the sea, from bather to corpse. Skin makes that last line reverberate, “It’s the only way to leave/without paying a toll.” (Note that “without” printed twice.)

    Did you consider just resting one card on your chest? Elimination of hands/flipping might have made flesh more like sand. Or was that advantage outweighed by another desired effect?

    We had wind and rain here yesterday, and October perfection today. I was kicking myself for being indoors, rather than outside at a Chicago gallery-walk. Then I compared your poem to this process-description by a featured artist: “The narratives which I produce are depictions of concepts. … The process for creating the pieces begins with a written thought on which I build visual images. I then hone the composition with finished pen and ink drawings prior to completing the paintings. By using specific colors, poses, objects and observational view points, I load each pastiche with meaning.”

    Indoors it is.

    1. Hi Julia – I’m glad the background worked for you. As I said to Brenda Clews in the comments at Vimeo, it took me all day to hit upon the idea of using my naked torso as a background. I’m the sort of person who wears a shirt on the beach out of modesty, but the cards did a pretty effective job of hiding my gut. No, I didn’t think of trying it with just one postcard, but my method was esssentially ekphrastic: first shoot the film, then try to come up with words that complement it. (Hannah Stephenson’s daily ekphrastic poems at The Storialist are one inspiration in this regard.) When making the film, I wanted to do two things: show all the NJ postcards I have, and suggest the frenetic pace that I associate with New Jersey.

      Artist statements generally strike me as a very bad idea, though I’ve seen exceptions.

  2. I loved this, Dave! Plus… I envy you the collection of vintage postcards.

    I’m curious about the Parkway ones – are they from the early 50’s? I’m not sure when construction started, but suspect it was around that time as I remember stories from my parents of traveling down to the shore from their apartment in Jersey City, their visiting our childhood home as it was being built, etc. in the days before the Parkway.

    1. Hi Laura! Glad you were O.K. with this. Both my parents grew up in NJ, whence the postcards. The Garden State Parkway ones aren’t dated (most of them aren’t), but yeah, they’re from the early fifties, I think. They’re both from the Howard Johnson Publishing Department in Mount Holly, and they have a “textured surface similar to linen cloth” (Wikipedia article on postcards) that was last used in the early 50s. It’s really amazing to see postcards depicting highways, but I guess they were sources of wonder at the time. I have one of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, too — an aerial view of “the famous straightaway” — as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and other early interstates. The term “parkway” itself suggests the way people thought about them then, I guess.

  3. This is so awesome. I expected a different poem from your title (all “GTL” and “smushing” and “grenades”), but I really enjoyed it. The last lines are my favorite (and the paperbacks).

    I will have to try something like this….not sure how….but my good ol’ Mac will have a solution, I’m betting!

    I appreciate your shout out in the comment above, as well–really made my day.

    1. Hannah, I’m glad you liked this. I understand that Mac video editing software can be quite good — better than the Adobe Premiere Elements I’m using, I’m sure. I’d love to see more poet-bloggers making videos, though it is time-consuming, even for these simple, one-minute ones.

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