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The Summer of 1990

07.23.18 Posted in today's words by

Nathan Gunter’s most recent poem to appear here was “The Wild Heart” (May 2018).

The Summer of 1990
By Nathan Gunter

Some collection of awful things
happened on the Great Plains
in the summer of 1990.

This trauma trove
was not outlined in Dan Rather’s
soothing baritone. George Herbert Walker
did not take to the podium
to assuage its aftermath.
But it left its sooty, smudgy fingerprints
all over everything.

That August, when the kids
came back from summer vacation,
they were meaner.
There were triple the number of braces
quintuple the boobs
and so much more attitude.
Friendships forged in the maternity ward
of the local hospital
gave way to hostilities.
The girls discovered gossip,
graduated from Barbie to Cosmo.
The boys traded Transformers
for titty mags.

No one knows why the change occurred.
The weather that summer
was unremarkable.
Oil prices were steady,
and though beef took a tumble,
no one panicked.

I may have an explanation, though.

In the summer of 1990, Dad
called a family meeting:
“What are we going to do
for this year’s vacation?”

He passed out ballots—it
would come down to a vote:

  1. Go to Colorado and camp (like every year).
  2. Dad take the boys to California to see Uncle Bill (plus Disneyland!)
  3. California plus camping—Mom can drive up alone to Colorado, since she can’t take enough time off work for California.
  4. Sit around and watch the grass grow.

I gleefully chose C. I spent my tenth
birthday at Disneyland with my Dad.
Two months later,
at Mom’s tearful, angry insistence,
he moved out.

I chose C, and the world
turned ninety degrees.
Colors reversed.
Compasses shifted.
Kids were mean.
Dad lived in a motel,
and the grass still grew.

Maybe all that was inevitable, but
I wish I’d voted
to spend the summer of 1990
sitting around watching it.

6 Responses to “The Summer of 1990”

  1. Ed Zahniser says:

    Wonderful poem, Nathan! Thanks.

  2. Sherrell Wigal says:

    What a good poem – so many good lines and images. I particularly liked the voting aspect of this poem.

  3. Frank Adams says:

    Nathan – I find your poem moving and insightful. Good job.

  4. Charlene james says:

    Hi Nate,
    First off happy birthday will try to send a YouTube greeting.

    Liked poem a lot even though it is so unfortunate, it turned out that way.
    Cheers, char

  5. Hiram Larew says:

    Having savored this piece as read by Nathan at this spring’s Bridgewater International Poetry Festival, I get another bite at the apple. Reading it on the screen reminds me of its understated force, its poignant humor and its gush-rush to adulthood. Thanks for sharing it on vox poetica.

  6. Bobbie Troy says:

    Oh, to go back again. Poignant story. Good piece.

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