Four poems by Roy Bentley


Late Rain

1. The Light from a Woman’s Hair

Some part halos the indentation on the pillow;
some approximates after-sleep’s last placement;
another is the eye-numbing white of sheet.

A fraction arrives as through Heaven’s window
to vibrate the world-outside strings of a windchime.
A slender-limbed woman transforms the half-visible

before the cheap motel room mirror, works
to loose a particularly knotted length of hair.
The knot isn’t her life; the knot is a knot—

but connected to everyone except herself,
islanded in brightness, she is what is called
lovely: shawled in white and white-gold.

2. It

It’s a matter of taking hold of one hand
and letting go another, if you’re lucky,
though everyone but you knows how desperate
and sees through talk of affection’s sea change
as through a fine screen. Still, seeing through
a white puff of winter breath isn’t breathing,
which is to say that any set of disappointments
shared is a relationship, the big It, as in
It was all I could do not to tell her the truth.
When it’s the case of needing to be released
to someone else’s keeping, it’s not easy—
because it’s you who wants this for what it isn’t.

It hardly has to do with wanting anymore.
It really is out of your hands, isn’t it?

3. Late Rain

Adultery is like putting down a dog:
the thing is, it has to be done,
though it’s brutish work and called for
since what won’t fix won’t heal, either.

The test of inviolate love is multiple choice;
that whispering in the ear says what happens
happens for good; and your job is to still
the animal within a mostly sterile field.

In some countries, the penalty is death
and death licks a pair of faces like a cat.
To think they imagined a better life wherein
an ordinary voice was bread out of nowhere

in the way anything fine is sudden, beautiful.
On the radio a man sang Gone, pure twangy country,
in the office of memory where late rain gentles.
Bill me, you said because it wasn’t free.

4. Buying a Handgun in Late March

The guy behind the counter at the gun store
calls the brass jacketed hollow-point ammunition
“man stoppers.” Says they’re for home protection,
though the truth is they’ll compromise body armor.
He sells me a box of twenty-five. The cartridges
are for the Colt Gold Cup Trophy Model .45
matched to a Galco leather shoulder holster.
What’s wrong with this picture is what’s wrong
with love; there’s no waiting period, no talk of
responsibility or wounds you can’t be saved from.

What the guy should have said is It’s time to decide
if this is an act of faith or a surrender. Which is it?

What he doesn’t say waits in the overwhelming
Ohio air like a leaf bud as much buried in itself
as the sheath it breaks free of with a violence.


Elvis, 1968

He’s starved so he can decant into leathers.
Braved serial cardiac arrhythmias. Impotence.
They counsel him to ease up on the Benzedrine.

Tonight, America is a burlesque of barbarians.
He wants to shunt the Beatles from the charts.
Hits the masking-taped X and the game is on.

Here’s hoping he doesn’t piss away everything
because a twin, Baby Jessie Garon, was stillborn.
If this Elvis is a tchotchke with a young-once snarl,

he is also a man who has had his fill of bacchanals
where women and men pulse like small winged things:
monarch butterflies on the trunks of the trees: smoke

bumping and grinding into some hushed shape of air.
Conceit of this order of magnitude may well travel
on starships. Never mind the sexual echolocation,

maybe he has to slip on a skin of light and dark
and learn genuflection before the prattling cackle
of sacred songs falling far short of deliverance.

Nonetheless, he is mid-anthem. Stage lights
fletch arrows of matinee-idol hair. This much
may survive summer if not Death’s hegemony.


My Dream of Being the 1903 Wright Flyer

Pride of the West unbleached muslin my skin,
my 12-horsepower 4-cylinder the raw aluminum
from Pittsburgh cast by Buckeye Iron and Brass—
spruce-strutted wings plagiarize all the old thinking,
the best-guess new thinking in the aerodynamics
of smoke across wingshapes. Rolled out into summer,
I’m the instrument of modernity for part of an hour.
Pushed, I’m fabric wings dipping and springing back
into Ohio morning. Set rolling to a runway, I start.

The din of the props swallows the pilot inside me.
I sense I’m falling and have fallen a long way,
if twenty feet is a long way. But then I rise—
I can tell you a ceiling of thirty feet can prefigure
heaven. I can’t say enough about soaring. It’s travel as
basic turns, the rare figure-eight. One or the other Wright
circles Dayton. Applauseless life can’t love you like this
as you float above horizonline, the bi-plane shadow
racing just below on the ground like prophecy.


The Sexiness of Older People

Why not every joy-toy and thingamajig imaginable,
meaning what’s pleasing or acceptable to the rookie

is perfected by hands examining a plural happiness.
Antediluvian Clark Gable can bed Marilyn Monroe,

even with leg tremors and having to start stop start,
cracking his major-movie-star smile at who we are

and what we thought on the way to boundlessness.
Maybe it’s the allusion to movies, but I’m thinking

about the quantum mechanics of starlight-as-DNA,
a chemistry of doggedness, but that isn’t it exactly.

I’m thinking of my aunt touching my dead uncle.
He was her husband. I was about to say her friend.

A drape of bunting bellying around the catafalque
below a casket a Holiness preacher had pounded—

I remember she leaned over in an act of defense
as if what this is about is protecting one another.

How else to say Goodbye after years of sweet sex
and the pleasures of falling asleep together after?

Roy Bentley’s last collection was Starlight Taxi, which won the 2012 Blue Lynx Poetry Prize and was published by Lynx House Press in Spokane, Washington. Honors include fellowships and awards from the Ohio Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Bentley lives in Pataskala, Ohio where he writes full-time.


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