Joyce Sandeen Johnson
Joy Rick Atkins
Cindy Guentherman

summer warms the morning
old car rumbles into park
laughter spills out

harried and hot, young mother counts
blessings as they race to the pond

the tongues
of new Nikes get a taste
of country mud

eager feet scamper to swing sets
heavy chains groan against steel bars

converging in groups
like starlings on power lines
strident whoops of kin

Aunt Beth lugs the diaper bag
Uncle Pat his beer cooler

Roger lights charcoal
men gather popping beer cans
bragging begins

Grandma Gert sails past Susies' mom
they haven't spoken for years

quiet girl cousins
set up a Barbie doll camp
in the shelter house

boy cousins race to baseball field
ball in hand Dan yells he'll bat first

Nan scorns Barbie dolls
begs to play ball with the boys
mild melee erupts

hippie-era Bud from Quebec yells
"ain't those hot dogs cooked yet?"

always late Sally
rushes for empty table
spilling all the beans

with minds on neither beans or dogs
young Jake and Lil trudge up the hill

the New England branch:
fat t-bones perched on the grill

with all those hot dogs

this year Grandma Gert rings the bell
telling all it's time to gather

Susie's mom, outclassed
her nose turned up at the steaks
"Easterners! Such snobs."

Walt's dandelion wine
raises glasses - and eyebrows

a family toast
Bert yells across the tables
to the Jordan clan

after the toast Dan sneaks a sip
boy cousins stifle snickers

Susie's brownies gone
she beams at Grandma Gert
offers more baked beans

two heaping plates of food and then
Pat still enjoys three kinds of pie

groans of discomfort
settle over stuffed stomachs
tight belts are loosened

suddenly, Dan's harmonica . . .
Nan knows the words to the old songs

Walt and Pete chime in
more come, singing together

to haunting strains of "Summertime"
Young Jake and Lil trudge down the hill

Gert gets the words wrong;
Susie whispers to her mom -

basket in hand Janice overhears
wonders about Bob's test results

thoughts turn personal
reality no picnic
complex lives return

peals of thunder mixed with sounds
of "same time, same place next year"