Asbury Park, 1915


I am two-and-a-half-years-old,
hand in hand between my parents.
"What is that big thing?"
"A cannon?" says my father.
The cannon sits on its two wheels and tail
in a sea of red flowers.
"Roses," I say.
"No," says my mother, "those are cannas."
In a burst of delight I chant,
"She looked at the canna
and jim-jamma-jane."
It is my first poem.
My mother wants to know,
"Do you mean 'cannon' or 'canna'?"
But on the picture-postcard of my mind,
cannons and red flowers
are forever one.


In a white muslin dress and pique hat
barefoot on the sea's edge,
I dismiss parental warnings.
"The Atlantic Ocean can't drown ME!"
Heading for the horizon
I walk into the shallow foam.
Mother in a long linen skirt
and red shoes with French heels,
splashes into the surf and yanks me shoreward.
We emerge wet and indignant.
My father with his accordion-pleated Kodak
preserves the scene on sepia film.

For almost eighty years
we have stood there on the sand,
safe from the sea, in a black album.

Virginia Hamilton Adair - Three Years Old