Justin Hunt

The Summer We Left

For Reid, Greg, Eddie, Leonard, Spunky, Ron, Tony and Phil

After shutting out the locals, we loaded up
our bats and found a quiet, musty 
pool hall where I drank my first beer—
on a parched, south-wind night
in Anthony, Kansas, August 1968. 

In the dim, stale air we perched
on vinyl-covered stools bolted to the floor, 
grimy spittoons below us, our schooners
heavy globes of ice as we eased 
into the velvet carbonation of Coors.

Our talk was soft, a murmur as measured 
as nine scoreless innings, while the crack 
of snooker balls tacked time and place 
to memory: our last game together, 
all of us splitting off, some to night shifts

at Boeing, others to college or Vietnam. 
Outside, we mumbled goodbye, piled 
into dusty cars and pickups—into the reek
of gasoline, oil and our fathers’ sweat. 
And when I drove the forty miles home 

through black, empty prairie, it was 
to a life somehow larger than the one 
I’d left earlier that day, though not large
or long enough yet to mourn 
our old fierceness—the way we spit 

and slid and stole for each other, 

        the way we slugged.

Justin Hunt grew up in rural Kansas and lives in Charlotte, NC. His work has won several awards and appears or is forthcoming in a wide range of literary journals and anthologies in the U.S., Ireland and the U.K., including, among others, Barrow Street, Five Points, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Ohio Review, The Journal, Solstice, River Styx, The Baltimore Review, Arts & Letters, The Florida Review, Bellingham Review, Crab Creek Review, Terrain.org, Southword, Live Canon and The Bridport Prize Anthology. For more information on Justin, please visit www.justinhunt.online.