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Provincetown Memories Paintings and Words by Richard Stabbert Produced by Firehouse Publishing 8 Walnut Street, Bordentown, NJ 08505 Š 2013 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. ISBN - 10: 1940290031 ISBN - 13: 978-1-940290-03-4 Printed by Createspace

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left: Playing on the Jetty

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." Picasso

This book is dedicated to my partner, Vincent, and to Eric for making this collection possible Richard Stabbert

Piggy Back

The City of Light, the City of Love The city of light, the city of love. Wandering alone through these few rooms on this Sunday late summer afternoon, sitting in a cafe', or watching the children sail their boats in the pond, in the park, where the leaves are just beginning to color, I think of you and those few days in Provincetown. Your first words to me, I cannot remember. Hot in the August sun, I’m tucked away in the dunes. It is quiet on the beach and I doze after this unexpected stopover on my way to Boston from New York. I look up to see you in the haze of the sun and my travel weariness. I am impatient and you are persistent. You are handsome but not extraordinarily so, but enough to stir my interest. Yes, you can sit on my blanket and ask the questions that should be asked. "Where are you from? Where are you staying? For how long?" A swim? Yes, I will go with you in the cold, green water. You run swiftly over dunes to dive in under the waves, while I move cautiously over the stones, shivering as the water touches my sun-warmed skin. It is there that you kiss me in this Cape Cod Bay. All wet and glistening, we return to my blanket and watch the grasshoppers in the grass, talk of nothing, touch one another, share my meager provisions of water and an apple. The tides in the salt marsh are leaving when we are walking to the bike rack, a ways off through the dunes and along the paths of puddled water. I am in awe, I am humbled, the old lighthouse in the distance, you and your impossibly white feet beside me. Tea dance is beginning as we come into town. The boys are in their summer finery, but not us. We go on to your rented room to spend the next few days. Even now, an ocean away, I still can taste the salt on your body, languid and reclined on a Provincetown summer’s day.

Late Spring 2

Please Don’t Encourage Please don’t encourage, only to deceive me, Provincetown. I know how things can be in this town. There is a beautiful ice cream-scooping boy, with the face of a renaissance painting, all sharp and angles, but instead of ringlets down his neck the hair is dark and shorn. An Italian master might have painted him in another time. But here he is and I have watched him at the water’s edge, pensive and moody, or perhaps just weary from the last evenings late hours. The body, too thin, fragile, breakable in his red swim trunks. Why is it that I am a ghost? Transparent to his gaze while I know he sees me. Beauty will not step into the water, maybe just the dip of his ankle or a splash of his hand. It is only to establish that he is here. This cloudy midsummer day, he has arrived. "I am beautiful, look and see", as he walks back towards the dunes to a blanket half hidden, as he shuts his eyes and half dreams. Tonight, there will be crowds in town looking for the cool and the sweet, and they might make their way to him. The smile, affable, the demeanor, distant, one scoop or two, but don’t interrupt his dreams.

Sail Boat

The Season is Off to a Good Start The season is off to a good start despite the cool weather. I work the lunch and dinner shift here on the restaurant deck above the street, where the seafood is fresh with a view of the bay, if you have the right seats. The place is a bit short staffed so I work all the hours I can. The newest guy is on tonight waiting with me. A few customers have begun asking if we are brothers and he said, yes. It seems to help with the tips and now I answer, yes. When I look at him I can see something similar, yet not the same...kind of the same height, not too tall, brown hair, brown eyes. Maybe the uniform of black pants and black shirt pull it together. Anyway, if it's good for the tips, then I’m all for it. The plastic shades are buckling in the breeze as we run up the last dessert to the last remaining table. A party of men celebrating a birthday, taking their time finishing when all I want to do is get out on the street. The bar still has some customers and the CD is playing some jazz light as I finally take off my apron. Done for the evening, my coworker approaches and asks if the money was good. I give a shrug. "Would you like to have a drink here at the bar?" I’d like to leave. But in some absurd vanity, I sit and pull out the seat next to mine. It’s gotten colder with the wind off the water as I cross my arms and listen to yet another version of what someone is doing here for the summer and an absurd correlation between the sun and a sneeze. You charm me as we finish our drinks courtesy of the bartender.

The weather on the street is clear yet a fog shrouds the monument like a ghostly apparition. The night wind veils mists of gray covering the moon. You speak of a roommate and a visiting friend and I invite you to squander the next hour or so in my room. We arrive and I am anxious to wash away the work of the day leaving you to flip through magazines and put on some music. The room is spare with piles of clothing that lay about in varying degrees of needed laundering, but I am quite certain you live the same. The urgency of the short season and the need to grab at its offerings requires some things left undone. I step from the shower, the day is washed away. Without knocking, your curiosity could not keep you away. Not foreign to being unclothed in front of other men, I am suddenly aware of my nakedness. In silence you slip from your uniform never breaking your gaze. I know I will not resist you when you lead me to the shower once more and under a stream of hot water put your mouth to mine.

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Wet Swimsuit

We Pedal Our Way We pedal our way on rented bikes through the early evening, thinning crowd down Commercial Street, weaving, slowing, quickening. In the time still left before the sun sets, I will take you to see the Purple Loosestrife that grow wild and unkempt by the horse farm on the last street near the bike rentals, shortly before the Provincelands begin. By next summer there may be condos to take their place, but it’s ours for now. Racing against the fading light, the summer seems endless. We are shirtless and free. I have never been more in love with a moment than I am now. Our arrival is seconds too late; a purple sunset is lost to darkness. So, instead, you lean in and kiss me. My disappointment gives way to desire. You look at me and begin to sing, something old, something sweet, a song about horizons that are new to us. I lower my head and laugh, an embarrassed laugh. I am moved by your gesture. I cup your chin with my free hand and hold you there looking so as not to forget...a stray lank hair across your eye as you return my gaze. Back on the street, we walk our bikes. The crowd has swelled; the shops are buzzing with this parade of Provincetown, the couples in their pressed shirts and khakis, hand in hand, the boys on the prowl, the women dressed like teen boys with haircuts to match, the families in for the evening’s entertainment the local teens; the drag queens all here to find something find a freedom of their own. These days have been hot, the night offers little relief. The tide is in and the harbor settles into a quiet rocking of the boats, as we move past the galleries into the quiet of the east end.

Back in our room, the ceiling fan whirls as we tussle into the bed, the sheets still damp from the sea salt breezes.

Martin Has Many Admirers

Matching Towel

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Too Close to the Jetty

Threads of Diamond Light The sun sends quivering threads of diamond light through the water and onto the bottom of the high tide marsh. We are misplaced neon dots on a Pointillist seascape that Seurat never painted. Floating the bright colored rafts down current until we get too close to civilization and then back again. Pushing against the water that pulls its way back to the bay as we begin the routine once more. To the west, over the marsh grass, rise soft warm mounds of sand as my fingers clasp your ankles and I lie on my belly. In front I see soft rounded mounds of flesh rising from a water heavy raft. The sun hides and reveals itself in the August clouds all afternoon through our various raft formations, until, at last, a four o’clock change in temperature and dwindling depths of water alter our play. Twenty-four hours will have soon passed that we met outside of Tea Dance. I am a bit too forward and you a bit too unavailable but in these heady days before Carnival, I am eager to leave an old self and hunger for something new. At your Delft Haven, we tenderly make love on your living room floor. Droplets of sweat on your forehead as I yield to desire. The respecting silence that I offer as I look at the photos on the wall. Tomorrow, Provincetown is a festival under a shower of hard candy and cheap necklaces. The parade moves down Commercial Street and I stand close to the curb and watch the floats pass by. A bit drunk, wearing a grass skirt and a few of those necklaces, I see you across the way, your arm slung around the shoulder of the picture on the wall and you smile. I smile, lift my hand to wave, then think better of it.

Puka Shells

All the Way from the Cold North All the way from the cold north, fair and freckled, gingerhaired, you winsome beauty, wearing a sarong in the Monkey Bar, like this is some tropical locale. Piped in music, old disco and before I know it, we are dancing together sweet and slow. We haven’t got the beat, but we’ve got tequila enough, so it doesn’t matter that the small space between the front door and the barstools is no dance floor. The Canadians are looking at me, the Americans at you, waiting for some trade agreement to take place at this uniting of nations. A hand on a waist, and I kiss a freckled nose, as two more couples join in at this makeshift dance party, the bartender doesn’t seem to mind. It’s Tuesday night, he’s counting on the tips. The song ends, you whisper in my ear, and we go off into the New England night, a half moon lighting up the street of this harbor town. Diamonds shine on the tidal flats between the old houses as we head to Captain Jack’s. The whisper of another dance as we make our way up the wooden steps. Quietly, and with no music, dancing under the wooden beams, careful so as not to make the floor creak. I awaken the next morning to white-washed walls, the wrinkled old nautical print, and you on the worn leather seat peeking through the fingers that hide your eyes from the sun, or how you may have gotten here in the first place. You are no stranger in a strange land. A kiss goodbye as you walk out into the brilliance of this Provincetown morning. White clouds of August up high, the smell of the sea, and wearing my sweat shirt for your travel home.

Wishful Thinking Pay Phone At the pay phone that hangs in a sandy square by the Masthead Inn, I feed coins into the slot. Tears run hot down my cheeks as I call to arrange my way home. My time is finished here in Provincetown. Carnival week has passed and the boys are going home.

To the other end of the line, I try to explain that these tears are not for love. I have been in love before. We have all come here separately, the odds and ends, the outsiders and solitary, to find one another. In a condensed lifetime there are friendships formed, love made, and allegiances switched back and forth. Perhaps an adolescence that was not ours to have has come and given us another chance. Revealing our bodies to one another at the Boatslip pool, we float or sit around the concrete edges of the pool, our legs dangling into chlorinated, clear water. A misfit tribe, all the labels we use in describing ourselves, dance at afternoon tea, finding and seeking one another. We come out of the shadows and kiss in the pure light of Provincetown, where holding hands is an act of affection, not defiance or in fear. Some look for forever, some only look for available, as we move to the Pied, dancing in the dangerous days of desire. Dressing in the style of the day, or the fantasy you wish to convey. We are in the restaurants and cafes and on the benches in front of Town Hall, where we can be who we choose to be as the summer throng moves along in the cool evening. The A-House lets out and the men fill the street and terrace in front of Spiritus, where pizza is the excuse to see or be seen, or only a last chance at love for the night. Only to wake up and begin again. There have been times that I have found love in this town. Usually it fades as quickly as it takes until beauty walks right by, but this freedom seems to take hold and sticks around.

Tussle Over Red Suit Far From the 5th Floor Walkup Far from the 5th floor walkup on West 12th Street, I round the corner of Tremont and Commercial under the watchful gaze of William Shakespeare looking out with a pensive and allknowing gaze upon each passerby from the open window in the upstairs room. Maybe I’ll write a love sonnet of my own here in Provincetown.

I rented a small room with no particular view, withdrew some savings, and know some faces to say hello to. The lighthouse in the distance is my destination calling to me like a Hardy Boys mystery. It gleams in the morning light as the clouds break away. Uneven, uneasy steps on the gray granite boulders as I make my way along the jetty to Longpoint, passing the sightseers enthusiastic yet unwilling to wander too far. The salt marsh is only beginning to fill so the rocks are high as I move on ahead. Moors Landing is a blur on the horizon, the town all but disappears, and I can still hear the muffled trumpet noise of the tour bus as it rounds the circle. I am alone here at this lighthouse, yet I move as if observed, cautiously jiggling the locks to the relic of safe passage. The doors peel black paint but do not yield. No mystery here, and the concrete wall is warm as I lean back against it and shut my eyes for a moment before I sense that I am not alone. Shielding my eyes to the glare of the sun, like a Cavafy poem you approach. A halo of humid curls and the light shining through your delicate ears. Cautiously stepping through dune grasses avoiding the brambles, you catch sight of me and probably wish for solitude. You nod and I return it. Deflecting your glance, I am now filled with the possibility of opportunity, Walking to the old storage shed and around to where the lighthouse faces the sea, you look to see if my eyes will follow you. They do, as you head over dunes, disappear for a moment and return again heading towards me. Suddenly a flock of terns fly up from their nest as a fairhaired vacationing family edge up the sand, chattering with delight. I turn to see you disappear once more down the trail heading to water, never looking back.

Over The Shoulder

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We Lie Here We lie here on the white sheets in our y-fronts, in the old hotel, up the hill, the air conditioner not working so great, and the steady thump of the dance music in the basement. When we first met you told me your name meant "Judgment of God." And if I am to be judged, let it be said that I loved you. From the window with the view of the monument to weary travelers, I have made my own pilgrimage back here to you. I have found exquisite in the ordinary, your ordinary face, your ordinary clothes, your ordinary desires. Our energy spent, restless and hot, unable to sleep at this not so late hour, I agree to your plan of a moonlight swim. Down the stairs, the night clerk nods and looks quizzically at our beach towels, too tired from his day job to ask. On the porch, the men lean on the banister to drink their drinks and pretend not to be interested in one another. On the street, through the town center, a boy plays his guitar, too good for the streets. The gathered crowd senses this and listens. Taking my hand, you lead me between the houses to the darkest part of the beach. With no moon, only the stars and lights of the far off harbor, we stand at the lapping edge. Off with our shorts, down to our underwear, I shudder with cold, but we are silent as we let the water envelope us. Through chattering teeth we kiss and complete this baptism. Back on the street, rivulets of water run down your legs as we head back to the hotel into the sacred night.

Red Stripe Shower Curtain

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Soft as a Petal Late hours and early mornings and by Wednesday the exhaustion has set in. Telling the house boy there is no need to straighten the sheets or change the towels. I head straight back to my room in the Waterford Inn to fall back into bed and asleep to the white noise of the air conditioner. Waking from the fog of a heavy sleep to the sunlight rimming the edges of the pulled down shade, I am again here in Provincetown and eager to move in its center. I head to Herring Cove. The hour is late as I finally settle onto my towel. It is past the time that I would come here, more the time that I might be showered and ready to hit Commercial Street after the beach. The sunlight is softer, everything seems quieter, even the beach goers more relaxed dozing in the cooler breeze, a few men scattered on the sand. A short distance away, you stand up from your blanket and contemplate the sea. I lie on my stomach and pretend to read my book watching you walk to the water. The dark hair on your legs rise to the white swim trunks. The square torso, the square face, dark eyes, dark hair that spikes unaided from a grown out crewcut. Sitting up now, I can see, as you stand with water up to your thighs, the slight waves teasing the seams of your trunks as you bend and dive into the sea. If I don’t act now, the moment will go. I walk to the water as if it has called to me, but it is the excuse to see you close. Under the water, then to the surface, treading the water, until you finish and come up to the shore. Searching for something, I ask, "It’s cold huh?" You shake your head, no. I see wet sand in your hair.

View from Poor Richards I am bold..."You’re handsome." You smile a real smile and I see the color rise in your cheeks through the tan. Droplets of water on your skin, I yearn to touch you, soft as a petal.

Dustin's Repose

Leaning on the Balustrade Leaning on the balustrade of Captain Jack’s Wharf, late morning, the sand is low tide wet. Some of the guests here are engaged in a game of kickball; the widened beach presents a spontaneous opportunity. Two middle aged women, some children, some teens, and a few men comprise the teams. Handsome you, the Guest from the upper landing room, motion me to join in. The newcomer, the stranger, I shake my head and decline the offer. Even these slipshod players bring up old athletic fears. I watch you, the head sheared to velvet, the narrow shoulders and narrow hips. Your long slim legs move gracefully and yielding, the swim trunks riding above your thighs to reveal a tan line. You are gracious of your opponents’ limitations. I slip back into the Adirondack chair and read my book. The clatter of breakfast dishes, the adolescent yelps from the next-door sailing camp, the motorboats slicing the water in the distance, I close my eyes. I am the mid-week arrival feeling my way through sound.

The manager interrupts to tell me there is a potluck dinner planned for later. I’m hoping for some better invitation, but I know there will be no other for this evening, and so I accept. The little party is just starting when I return from my wandering day. My offering of two bottles of wine are accepted in thoughtful consideration that I have only just settled in. A wind that picks up in the early evening ushers you down the stairs. Looking like van Gogh's Postmaster's Son, you heighten the energy of the evening revelers. A straw hat tops your head, a knotted bandana round your neck, the lips thin and the teeth small, freckles sprinkled round your nose. I am uncertain if you know your delight or if you are unaware, taking it for granted, the privileges of beauty. The men won't advance, nor do they despise. You are not the competition, you are the object of beauty that through your gaze, we may see for ourselves how far we have fallen. Casting a glance at me, I look away. The sunburn makes me feverish. The glass of wine? The look you gave? I return to an expected conversation of weather and time. You instantly engage with the couple staying next door. The gathering breaks up. Some people remain, the rest are off to the streets to shop for treasures. I walk along stopping to look in store windows. I find the bench available in front of Marc Jacobs, and slide in absorbed in the evening street life. The endless fashion show on the TV screen behind me loops continuously for the entering and exiting shoppers. Aware as you walk up the steps, no entourage in tow, minus the hat, scarf still in place. Worn jeans, a white tee slightly too large, the anti-fashion asks to share the seat with me. I look up close and equal. It may be the lovely night or the effect of the wine, but before I can ask your name you bestow an Eskimo kiss from your nose to mine, and a gentle whisper to my ear, "Sebastian."

Moolight Swim

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Sailboat Summer

Looking at Myself Looking at myself in the pink light reflection in the mirror at Heaven, I see the consequence of the hurt I’ve caused. Outside of this cafe a cloud passes over a lunchtime sun and I stand here so public and alone. Watching your mouth move but not hearing the words you speak, the thick lower lip. And you, pretty as a girl, your eyes fill and a single tear runs down your cheek. I would like to lick it away, taste the salty bitterness, but I do not make a move. Instead I stand like stone along the curb on Commercial Street. In my attempt to wound you, I have wounded myself. For a time when I said "yes," and for all the times I didn’t say "no." On an afternoon, a stranger stood on the hard wet sand between the water and the dunes and offered up the apple of temptation. So firm and round, we walk toward the tall grasses of the marsh. To measure the degree of your love, I have confessed. Now, here, before it is too late, like some magical charm, I say to myself, "Please don’t walk away." Then quietly to you, "Please don’t walk away." You turn and head into the street. Remorse, regret, once more out loud, "Please." Stopped still with your back towards me, your vulnerable hands at your side, it is my cue. So sorry, so sad, there are no victories in this game of love. I slide my hand into yours. You look only straight ahead as we make our way between the cars and the strollers, the people and the bikes down Commercial Street. I hope that one day when we are old, with these battles long behind us, we will walk with our weathered hands together down this very street as the world spills around.

Two Guys

Heaving my Luggage Up Commercial Street Heaving my luggage up Commercial Street after a seven-hour ride in a rented car, leaving a city of eight million people, yours is the first face I see. Managing a tight-lipped smile, remembering the last time I saw you, saying good bye to me on 14th and 8th, a winter wind was blowing up into the canyons of the city from the Hudson River. I am a fool or too tired or maybe just not over you, but as you look into my travel worn eyes, I find myself agreeing to meet you for coffee after I’ve settled in. At "Joe" we find a spot to the side away from the heat of the Provincetown sun. Underneath the table you deliberately brush your knees to my knees. I feel the downy hair as our legs touch. It excites and confuses me. Looking at my weary face you speak of mistakes and second chances. All this is unexpected, unchartered. So many miles from home, your tanned face, the hint of gold in your brown hair, the words you speak, I look upon the beauty of a thousand summers. I hold back what I see. Still wounded, I look past you to the men with practiced beach looks, locals catching up on gossip indifferent to the outsiders, people reading books or working on laptops. I have all the cynicism of a failed romantic but I again agree to meet you the following day. I sleep early, a heavy dreamless sleep in silence and salt air. In the morning we walk in the ankle deep water of a pulled back bay careful of the tender shoots of eelgrass beneath our feet. The hermit crab comes out of hiding from your cupped hand as you return it to the sea keeping the balance of nature.

Bathtub '08 Winter

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A Single Moment The summer season can sometimes be defined by a single moment. With no more than a kiss as you pulled your body into mine, we had that moment. Hidden by the crowd, in a corner of the Atlantic House, the music loud, a man’s laughter as his group unknowingly shields us from being observed. Remaining nameless, but not unknown, we are fire in this old bar, as we steal the few moments before you vanish back onto the dance floor. Too late for lunch, and too early for dinner, I notice you first as you enter the front door of Canteen on the arm of your boyfriend. You smile as I look up from the long table where I sit and eat a lobster salad sandwich. A familiar dizziness in my head as I return a cautious smile, only to meet the frown on the lips of your boyfriend. As my cheeks flush red, I look to the table as if I’ve never seen anything more interesting than the large letters which spell "In Cod We Trust." The curls on your head, the colors of autumn, look salty and tossed by the summer breeze. It is your thick lips, your sturdy thighs clad in denim that I remember as you both walk up to place an order. The air is filled with discomfort and I hurry to finish feigning indifference. As I exit, my eyes watch the white painted planks of the floor, the fishing lures on the wall. Our eyes will not meet, but I know you have felt it also. In the time that has followed the encounter of chance, the kiss that should not have happened repeats in my memory. I walk the daylight hot August beach, the shoreline expanding out further distancing the shingled houses and the library steeple that rise from the sand and grass and the ponds. Watching the bodies turning to brown in the sun, I catch the gentle slope of a bather’s slim waist into his shoulders as he lies curled on his side. I ache to touch the delicate curve. Three AM, early morning, the blinds on the window rustle as a cooler gust wakes me from fevered dreams. The cotton sheets pull at the corners and I push heavy into the bed.

Horsing Around

The Rain has Tapered Down The rain has tapered down to a steady drizzle as you wake and stretch a morning greeting to the gray motionless bay that lies beyond this window. Two days and counting are left of our thwarted beachcomber vacation. Irritable and anxious, weary of the wet sand that sticks to the bottom of my feet, unable to stay dry or get warm. My partner, lover, my muse, boyish and playful in the morning, wears nothing but old sweat sox, padding off to his daily libations. Pushing away the paint and brushes, making room on the tiny table, I am unwilling to venture from these four walls so it will be a simple cup of tea and toast for breakfast. After eating, I will attempt once again to paint. Placing a kiss on my brow, while I growl about the wet, cautious but not dampened by my rainy day mood. Together, clinging to the hope that Provincetown will work its magic, swirling the storm off into the great Atlantic. On the floor, I mix color and request that you sit still but I already know how that will go. Undeterred by what the climate brings, you have plans. "The Eyelash Cabaret?" "Uh huh," I respond through the paintbrush clenched in my teeth. A near centenarian, singing, her orange eye lashes match her hair. Rain or sun, it's the reason to be here at the very tip of the Cape, next stop Europe. "Love to." Adding more paint to what has already refused to dry on the canvas, I push it all away in one sweep, startling you. Frustrated, I agree to a walk about the puddles of this town. The same yellow ponchos are worn by the straight families and lesbians, while the men wear rolled up jeans and brightly

On the Dock colored flip-flops, a city version of a New England beachcomber. We two share the same useless umbrella courtesy of the closet in our quarters. Crossing Bradford onto Shank Painter, we enter the old cemetery where Provincetown old seafaring citizens lie underneath the wet grass that is home to a multitude of mosquitoes that bite at our ankles. In the sky above, dusty, yellow splinters of light break through the clouds. There is still time if we hurry back to our room to retrieve the already packed beach bags. The screen door clicks behind us as we enter and the rain begins again. My upset cast aside, we fall into bed scratching our ankles, careless in our lovemaking.

The Salt Marsh

This is My Favorite kind of Provincetown Day This is my favorite kind of Provincetown day. By mid afternoon it is apparent that the sun will not shine. The sky pulls in tight, a mass of gray on gray. Lighter gray clouds float along at the bay’s edge, trailing past the lighthouse in the distance which glows brilliantly white. Commercial Street is beyond crowded with people taking advantage of the weather to shop. They travel in from all the quieter Cape towns looking to discover the town of myth. The cars and the parking are nightmarish. The seashell lot is in overflow as the two Bulgarian beauties working there run back and forth to the command of their boss. I bicycle my way to the sea, having packed a towel, some bug spray, and a book that will remain unread. I have left my swim trunks behind. This is not a day for swimming. Wading through the deep overflow on the flooded path to the dunes, I hike up the bottom of my shorts, preserving the remaining few clothes that I have left that are either clean or not wet. Nestling under a scrubby bush in the sands of the dune, closing my eyes, I stretch out on my blanket. Away from the assessment of the men in town, I am alone. I lie in the place of deeper thoughts where summer stands still and I am timeless. The grainy sand on my fingertips, the slightest of wet breeze that makes my skin contract. In a daydream, I wander off to the parking lot attendants, the one with thighs like Nureyev, wide tartan cheeks, and flaring nostrils, forever pushing away the fringe of hair that needs to be cut. And the sailor boy, who takes away my sure footing and out to sea on the Bay Lady; golden in sunlight, he hoists the sails, shirtless as the light hair on his chest trails into denim. Every day I fall in love in Provincetown. It seems it can’t be helped.


I hear the black back gulls call just over the dunes and I stand to look as they pick at the remnants the rough tide has left behind. In the white-capped waves I see a lone swimmer swimming along the shoreline. I realize I am not alone at all.

At the Seas Edge

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Place and Time The summer comes slowly and is quick to go, and we remain suspended in a state of grace. Early to late, morning through evening, our Provincetown summer is without time or identity. From the cabin called Jupiter on Captain Jack’s Wharf, we hang our legs out the barn door opening one floor up. We flirt and smile at the passersby until someone reaches high and tickles our feet. Tall glasses of milk and cupcakes from Relish will do for our breakfast. The manager comes round asking us to lower the music. In a tiny tub you invite me to join you. Instead I will scrub you clean, splash the soap away from your body. We are still unsure of one another. I yield to you the power to break my heart as I touch your slippery skin. You shake the water from yellow curls. I rinse the bony shoulders, the narrow waist, the cleft in your chin, under your arms, then my hands under the water. In a towel you dance a sexy silly dance for me, I pull you to the creaky iron bed once again. We are renegades in a beach town, hiking the jetty half across, where we wade the rest. The high water surrounds us at the rocks’ edges and I hold my backpack above my head. On the beach and into the dunes hidden from sight, we lie in the scent of wild roses away from the poison ivy on the warm sand. The wind gusts up from the water as the grasses whisper to us. In low afternoon light, I photograph you again and again, pictures to be found in a drawer at a later time, grainy paper, the black and white images curling at the edge. My testament to a future where we existed once in this place and time.

About the artist Richard Stabbert: The light in Provincetown, the beach at Sandy Hook, the Eiffel Tower, and a vase of flowers all disparate places, people, and things that inspire Richard Stabbert to paint. All of his images are tied together by a sensuality of brushstroke. He limits his palette to evoke spare, almost graphic forms, as color in itself and line have a resonance and symbolism for Stabbert. Even when he paints a recognizable image there is a blurring into abstraction. Born in Red Bank in 1959, Stabbert is a self-taught painter. He documents the people in his life, both past and present, referencing the people and objects around him, and the beach. His art has been displayed at BRIANRILEY1PROJECTS, New York; Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts, New York, Susan Berke Fine Arts in Red Bank, APEX Gallery, Asbury Park. His work has also been published in other books by Firehouse Publishing including, 100 Artists of the Male Figure, Powerfully Beautiful, and the first edition of The Art of Man. You can discover more about Richard Stabbert by visiting his website at

Books that include his work can be found at:

More books by Firehouse Publishing

Provincetown Memories: Paintings and words by Richard Stabbert  

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