Poetry and photos by Sarah E. Murphy
I used to drive by religiously
to make sure it was still there.
Every time I rounded the Heights Hill
I held my breath
wondering what would greet me at the top
knowing any day it could all change.
And each time I saw the vista of my youth
familiar relief washed over me
like the feeling of the surrounding waves
or the season’s first swim.
Everything was as it should be
when I spotted the barn-like structure
and the seaside deck overlooking Vineyard Sound.
The green and white awning
and the weathered boardwalk we strolled
with our Great Danes
Ophelia, Sinead, and finally Max.
“Shall we go around the Hill?” Mom would ask
on the way home from St. Patrick’s on Sundays.
A suggestion more than a question
for the answer was always yes.
Dad would bear right at the island
past Holiday Cycles and the Chapel
heading left at the Yacht Club.
But on Thanksgiving
I walked into the kitchen to hear Mom on the phone
updating my uncle on local news.
“Well, the Casino’s gone,” she said.
“It took a few days to come down.”
And as her words settled in the air like dust
panic and grief washed over me
as I realized in the holiday rush
I hadn’t gone around the Hill that day.
Checking on the turkey
I saw flashes of summer nights with my siblings
and twilight treks across the ballpark
for soft serve and penny candy
which later became midnight cocktails.
It was like learning of a friend’s death
after the funeral had already passed.
Before dinner, Seton and I went for a drive.
“Are you ready?” he asked starting the car.
for like any other loss
the child in me thought
that if we didn’t go around the Hill
it wouldn’t really be gone.
Maybe for now we could just pretend.
But I had to see it
to make myself believe it
and as we drove
I remembered the night
I looked through the crowd
to see my underaged brother
walking across the beach
casually joining us
on the overcrowded deck.
The older sister in me knew
I should have sent him home
but somehow I didn’t have the heart.
Or dancing with Andrea on Road Race
to The Gap Band
or with Courtney to Third Eye Blind.
Flashes of countless nights
The sun shone disrespectfully
as we tried to pay our respects.
Neither of us spoke
and as we rounded the Hill
there was nothing to greet us
but a pile of rubble
and a chain link fence.
Monday on my way back to Newton
I returned with my camera
knowing I would regret it if I did
and even more if I didn’t.
No seagulls soaring for scraps
where Scoops and Ladders once stood.
Instead a greedy steel bird
scooping up pieces
of what was once the Casino.