Illustration by Stacy Reece
Illustration by Stacy Reece

McCrea Park

A North Carolina poet remembers a long-ago night of young love, interrupted by some ominous figures.

— Wilmington, 1971

10:00, routine Saturday night,
we have driven to McCrea Park, near
white stables, smell corral’s musk. Far side
of the white-washed fence, ballfield lights
blaze, so we slide on the seat into shadows
bestowed by long leaf pines, straight trunks
providing backdrop for running the bases.

In the front seat, as she charms me
with kisses and supple grip, someone raps
on the passenger-side window. He fronts
a legion of dark shapes encircling the car

and shines harsh lights over us. Then
stand down seeing my date’s blond hair.
One by one, the flashlights go dark.

Faces are uncovered. One stocky man
in a ball cap and bibs has a rope looped
around his shoulder. Another, sporting
flannel, breaks a shotgun over the crook
of his arm, and speaks
with a gruff drawl:
                              You kids need to get outta here.

My date blushes and nods, fumbles with buttons.
I scan the ballfield for a gas-primed cross.
Or nooses. The muster of coarse men mumble
and chuckle as he barks again:
                                                 Go now!  You hear me?

I rev the Plymouth, and accelerate past
the playground, the CCC-built shelters.
Even under crimson moon’s magic,
my date is upset and wants to go home –
I do not get lucky that night.

Sam Barbee grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and studied creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has a new collection, “Apertures of Voluptuous Force” (2022, Redhawk Publishing), plus three previous poetry collections, including “That Rain We Needed” (2016, Press 53) and “Uncommon Book of Prayer” (2021, Main Street Rag), which chronicles travels in England. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Sam lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with his wife Jan.


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