Rebecca Bornstein


Rebecca Bornstein is a poet and worker currently living in Portland, Oregon. She’s held jobs as a production cook, professional goat-sitter, parking garage receptionist, and creative writing instructor. She holds an MFA from North Carolina State University, and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Columbia Journal, Slice, Word Riot, and elsewhere. Visit her website at


Summer Vacation

Planes were something other people came to visit in,
the airport a place where you walked right up
to the gate and waited for that shiny sucker,

whose insides I could only imagine, to taxi
so that men on the tarmac could start chucking luggage.
We didn't have that kind of money.

My family took road trips, scraped together
meager tax returns and two weeks’ vacation
to go camping. Fifteen hours of highway, three kids

fighting in the backseat, old tent in a hard-top carrier
on the roof of whatever car we were hoping,
each year, wouldn’t break down.

What must it have meant for my parents
to have the scorched campstove pancakes, the view
of the mountains, the waterfalls, the Badlands, the bears?

They fought like hell to get us there: fixed flat tires,
bought our silence at every gas station with promises of soda,
patched the tent, built fires in the three-days’ rain,

roasted our marshmallows twice over when we asked.
We didn't appreciate it; wanted only to play mini-golf
or hang out with other kids in the campground,

to go into town and buy pizza. The rest of the year
they went to work sick and scouted secondhand furniture.
Returned aluminum cans for the deposit nickels,

and rolled them. What we had, my parents
stretched so thin you could see through it,
gauze across the long summer evenings

they spent slapping at mosquitoes in camp chairs,
heavily-poured screwdrivers in plastic cups
on the picnic table, looking forward to nothing

but their sleeping bags, the night, its stars.

I wrote this poem after reading an article about class bias in the ‘what I did over summer vacation’ essays many of us wrote as children. I think of the poem as a love letter to my parents and my version of the poor kid’s summer vacation.