Sunshine Girl

I’m a sunshine girl
from a sunshine state
and what a state I’m in
stuck here in the dark rain,
more than thirty years later.

I went off to college in the rainy Northwest
and wrote a poem
about riding my bike across the tracks in the hot summer sun
and the cool metallic smells of the orange packing house
and the kindly packers who gave us giant oranges for a nickel,
and of parking our bikes in the simmering shade
of the rusty corrugated metal sheds
and the peeling of those oranges, mouths watering,
sweaty crotches finally off those hot seats—
and a boy in that college class got all offended and said
I should not have had the words “sweaty crotch” in my poem.

Boy, you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Now, when I see the shapes of the leaves of southern California plants,
the eucalyptus and sage brush and pepper trees and live oaks,
when I smell the chaparral in the heat and the glorious petrichor
that rises after big summer rain drops—
it is enough to move me to tears.

Every winter here, I wonder what I’m doing.
A sunshine girl huddled indoors, I await the promise of summer:
direct sunlight on my skin, a heat that penetrates enough
to cause a drowsy well-being.
I turn on all the lights and wait for sun breaks
so I can run outside, close my eyes,
and tilt my hungry face toward the sun.

But it’s only in the winter that I wonder.