"Obviously, it is the place of childhood, that exerts a powerful spell over us through our lives."


—for Georges Perec & Joe Brainard

I remember making mud pies with friends behind our apartment when I was eight 

I remember the crunch (very gritty) when we tasted them once 

I remember one of the friends, maybe his name was Dan, & Dan

looking on, standing on the train tracks 

I remember his high-waisted longish black shorts

I remember loving ceramics class in second or third grade 

Loving it because the teacher was cute, Mister Smith

I remember how ceramics class smelled like baked beans cooking

I remember pouring hydrogen peroxide on the roots of my hair with 

my friend at the beach, Nags Head North Carolina 27959 USA 

I remember running back from the beach to the hotel room after thirty 

minutes to check & see if my hair was blonde yet 

I remember pouring more peroxide on because it needed to 

be blonde that minute 

I remember that minute being divine

I remember driftwood 

I remember our hotel & its smell of rattan & sand & rain

I remember seashells on shelves & mantles 

& that big piece of driftwood in the darkened sitting room

No one ever sat in there

I remember American History Class in eighth or ninth grade 

I remember the boy in front of me much better. (He sat near the front.)

I remember school Valentines & the Valentines boxes we made with a slit 

on the top of the box for cards 

My hand almost fit in there

I remember my fourth grade boyfriend: desk next to mine, to the left 

I remember the Dorothy Hamill haircut 

I remember loving the idea of her bowlish beautiful hair 

I remember not loving the way it looked on my head 

I remember the skating rink and, “All skate, everyone skate,” 

I remember “shoot the duck” meant you crouched down & tucked one 

leg under yourself with the other one out in front and you rolled 

around in a circle in the rink 

I remember being scared 

I remember how good one boy was & how we all had a crush on him 

I remember being tested for Gifted Class 

I remember not testing high enough to get in

I remember they got to take Field Trips to Cultural Places & 

Represent the School in Important National Things 

I remember butane hair curlers 

I remember the girl’s bathroom at school & that particular smell of butane (strong)

I remember salt-water taffy

that that was what summer was, because it was Nags Head 

I remember dressing up in Old Western outfits for a funny 

photo there with my friend. (We dressed up like saloon girls.) 

I remember not really knowing what a saloon was & holding a toy rifle 

The photo was going to be in sepia  

I remember we giggled our heads off until the guy took the photo & 

for that moment, our image carked down on our heads & 

he swallowed us whole in his lens, camera obscura, down side up, 

& I remember he 

did it again & again, kept shooting &

we weren’t dead & 

we weren’t afraid 

"I remember driftwood" appears in Heather Hartley's second poetry collection, Adult Swim.

Heather Hartley is Paris Editor for Tin House magazine and the author of Adult Swim (2016) and Knock Knock (2010) both from Carnegie Mellon University Press (distributed by University Press of New England). Her short fiction, poems, essays and interviews have appeared in or on PBS Newshour, The Guardian, Tin House, Slice, The Literary Review, Post Road and other venues. She has presented writers at Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, and her column about literary Paris, “Apéritif,” appears on the Tin House website. She has taught creative writing at the American University of Paris and the University of Texas El Paso MFA program.