That day we went to Southport without a thought
of Time, or Love, or God, or even sunscreen —
when it was late July, and we were nineteen,
when beer and cigarettes were all we brought,
when swimming naked meant the glimpses caught
were also offered, when no desire was unclean,
when death was in the picture but never on-screen,
when all we knew was what we had been taught —
that was the last time any of us were happy.
Which means that none of us are living well —
that’s what the Greeks say, and they seem like they’d know.
We haven’t died, or anything so sappy,
but we have put ourselves and our friends — our lifeguards — through hell
by always flirting with the undertow.

J-T Kelly

J-T Kelly is an innkeeper in Indianapolis. He lives in a brick house with his wife and five children, his two parents, and a dog.

'Sunscreen' has 1 comment

  1. November 18, 2022 @ 4:46 pm Cynthia Erlandson

    This sonnet sets a strong mood, while using the imagery in the first half to build up to the philosophical thoughts in the last half, and then returning to a moving image in the last line. “When death was in the picture but never on-screen” and “by always flirting with the undertow” are especially strong lines; and I think the extra syllables in many of the lines work, perhaps by adding a rhythm that suggests the waves and undertow.


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