July: I am
August: the sea
Funny how words can get in their own way. Notes turn into a poem, and then the accidental poem becomes a boulder in the stream of the essay, which was supposed to proceed from the notes—which were inspired, if that's the word, by sixteen multiple choice questions I've been writing about dividing syllables. Specifically the VC/CV rule. If a word has a vowel followed by two consonants followed by a vowel, like summer, then it's divided between the consonants.
I am/ sea.
And by coincidence, in five minutes July, the first full month of summer, meets August, the second full month. In short, it's sum: mer. M meets M.
And it is, in some ways, the real hinge of the year. June gives the spring, all complete, to July. July heats it up, wears it out, puts it through the wringer, and hands it over to August like a pair of red, itchy, long underwear. August thinks "aout! (ooh!) It might as well be...fall." And so begins the downfall of summer. But it's way more subtle than that. It's not what August hands to September. Just a touch of spentness, a southerly slant to the sunlight, a bit of Shakespeare in the meadow, played out by Goldfinch, Tansy, Loosestrife, and Touch-me-not getting fatter in the pod. "By the aut-ing of my tumns, something august this way comes."
And I don't mourn too much for the late, great July, because I do think, more than many adjoining months, July and August are twins. In fact, the red long underwear can easily double as one of those old-fashioned bathing costumes from the turn-of-the-century, back when "By the Sea" was all the rage.
So let us begin our rounding of Cape August with a glimpse of kids like us, jumping the waves at Coney Island in July or August, 1904. Everyone: "By the sea..."