No More Work and No More Lonesome and All the Honky-tonk Angels Living It Up

— Larry McMurtry, Horseman, Pass By

 

Our national anthem is a rude cadence of jackhammers
commencing at 7 a.m. in the street outside your window.
Call it a desperate dream, but we want to fall from history.
To flee the thieving glow and pronouncement of porchlights.

Maybe move somewhere that the reddishness of an evening
doesn’t call to mind the bloodletting it took to settle there.

What am I saying? I’m saying we’re suckers for America.
Besieged citizens know exactly what I’m talking about—
we imagined the place a church, holy, blessed by God,
but it’s one big factory town with a pissed-off foreman

and the threat of lay-off to keep the day-shift on its toes.
Who could’ve predicted that patter would be as sweet
to the ear, and about as persuasive, as the Eden snake?
America, you’re like that woman most men would love

to take to bed—some women too—who’s a screamer
and a jolt to your senses but no treat to wake up with.
As gorgeous as it gets when the air fills with howling,
a depraved beauty who reminds you of a dog craving

the scent of rotted meat and landfills. A nasty bitch
with a perfect reason for every awful thing she does.

 

 

 

About the Author: Roy Bentley is the author of Starlight Taxi (Lynx House: 2013), which won the 2012 Blue Lynx Poetry Prize. Books include The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine: 2006), which was the winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize in 2005, Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books: 1992), and Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama: 1986), which won the 1985 University of Alabama Press Poetry Series. Recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA, six Ohio Arts Council fellowships, and a Florida Division of Cultural Affairs fellowship, poems have appeared in the Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Rattle and elsewhere.

At the Wheel of the Pilar, Ernest Hemingway Addresses the Breezes off the Coast of Cuba

In his booming, amphitheatrical voice, he calls out: 
Our Father Who Art in Nada, Nada Be Thy Name.

And if the wingbeats of the gulls are God’s answer, 
they are also the wingbeats of gulls and only that.

He keeps the .32 Smith & Wesson at his waist. 
Loaded and holstered—the gun his father shot 

himself with. He says that the heirloom pistol
is for bull sharks. It’s June, 1941. And the war

in Europe isn’t being staged for this American, 
but it beats offering $100 to all comers to box

on the docks: bareknuckled or with the gloves.
In any war, the moon is still the moon and men

like this man up to God knows what for Glory.
Everyone on the island is sleeping in the nude

and with a window open, praying for a breeze.
With a crew and a Thompson submachine gun, 

again he patrols the north coast to Cayo Confites.
Again, wafers of moon transubstantiate in waves

scarving the hull in all waters, littoral and pelagic.
Again he wants to sink a U-boat with short-fuse

munitions, hand grenades. Rationed diesel fuel
feeds the 75-horse Chrysler, low engine-echo

unbuilding the dark, encouraging shore birds
to change rooms in their houses by the sea.

 

 

About the Author: Roy Bentley is the recipient of six Ohio Arts Council fellowship awards, as well as fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. He is the author of four collections of poetry: Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press). He lives in Pataskala, Ohio.

More to the Point, a Lake of Fire

Everyone wants to go to heaven—even murderers,
my granny says, preaching again of the Apocalypse
and the four unforgiving horsemen. No sense asking
about the vials of plague and suffering, which armies
battle against which, what infidel nation is banished
to dark Perdition or, more to the point, a lake of fire
after their defeat on the plains of Megiddo. Granny
says, There’ll be blood to the bridles of the horses.

Of course by “murderers” she means Kentuckians
who killed her two sons in coal town honky-tonks:
shot to death unarmed since each was as menacing
as the Old Testament God. She is visioning flames, 
a greedy dispersion spreading like an oil slick fire.
You see that here’s one who could shovel on fuel. 
Installed on my blue chenille bedspread, her face
is bare to starshine through a bedroom window,

slant snow aswirl outside the length of our street.
This is what love would offer sometimes in 1962
instead of peace—a Bible story more unnerving
than The Twilight Zone. For my granny, no saint,
it will never be over. There’s letting go and love
turned to whatever we’re left with as she shifts
her gaze from a photograph of John Kennedy
and I hear: First, the moon will drip blood.

 

 

 

About the Author: 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.

Man Walks into Penny Arcade, Never Walks Out

This is before surveillance cameras, before
you could steer a CGI theropod killing machine 

of the Cretaceous Period—Tyrannosaurus rex— 
through cyber-landscape Brooklyn. Man walks in,

disappears from memory and reliable eyewitnesses;
is declared D-E-A-D after the usual number of years

and allowed to transmogrify into whispered footnote.
Maybe the guy fed SHOOT the MOTHER-IN-LAW 

with Home Sweet Home gilded portraiture, aiming
at an arm-target on a circling-a-couch housedress,

a spit curled best-guesstimate of All We Despise.
Maybe he DING-DINGed it until he understood

how unfathomable the collapse and walked
into the remnant night. Misplaced forever.

Maybe he raised a white flag of surrender.
Maybe mystery became him in that place:

one noisy reversal crowded into another,
a red-red EXIT sign blazed and he step-

stepped as if testifying to what he saw
and the small deaths before the last.

 

 

 

About the Poet, Roy Bentley: I’ve won a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in Poetry, an individual artist award from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and six IA fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council. These four books have appeared: Boy in a Boat (Univ of Alabama), Any One Man (Bottom Dog), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press). A chapbook -- "Saturday Afternoon at the Midland Theatre in Newark, Ohio" -- has just been released from Mudlark: An Electronic Journal of Poetry & Poetics.

A Death in June

On PBS this evening, an actor, Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges,
says he watched birds—various species—and newborns

to affect the nascent wonderment of the alien in
Starman.
He explains that movements and vocalizations evolved

vis-à-vis
the behaviors of the inhabitants of Planet Earth
followed by improvisational, trial-and-error mimicry.

His stammering starman thundered to ground in Wisconsin
and so asks why we strap dead animals to the hoods of cars.

He then reanimates the carcass, insisting some customs
need not exist. I thought of the suicide of a friend—

I’m told he dragged a borrowed stepladder into a thicket.
After entering the undergrowth, he may have chuckled

at some cosmic signage declaring his luck to be ending
surrounded by the unambiguous scent of honeysuckle.

I’m not sure the equinoctial nature of flowers applies
or if the helix of the DNA ladder is really regret

woven in and through darknesses in each of us.
I do know the friend who discovered him too late

carries, as memory, the expression of the face
and that he used an orange-colored rope.






About the Author:
Roy Bentley has received fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. Books include Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog, 1992), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine, 2006), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House 2013). He has taught creative writing and composition at universities and colleges throughout the Midwest and in south Florida. These days, he teaches at Georgian Court University and lives in Barnegat, New Jersey with his wife Gloria.

1000 Plastic Toy Soldiers

Every now and then, mostly for the reason she could,
my mother had been handing me German or American
toy soldiers, gray Germans and forest-green Americans.
And I’d tear into the bright packaging, happy to be loved.
When I gave the collection of a thousand plastic army men
to my cousins Bob and Jim Ramsdail it was because I’d read
in a book from the Bookmobile that the defeat of the Germans
during World War Two wasn’t as much an American triumph
as it was a clear indication of the will of the Russian people.
I’d picked up the book because
Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard
was on hold. The news about the Russians nearly cancelled
a fondness for setting up and knocking over infantrymen.
In another of the books, it was 1917. Second Lieutenant
F. Scott Fitzgerald was headed to war, adjusting himself

to his full five-foot-eight-inches as he stepped forward.
Overhead, the heavens opened as if God was a sucker
for the dramatic. It was raining. On the gangplank.
On a billboard-sized Stars & Stripes that rippled.
Then, a dockside slapstick as if a pair of spigots
marked
W and R (for wind and rain) had opened.
In the biography, the sides of a transport glowed
as the big boat cast grey Vs of shadow on the men.
One or two counted cadence, smiled and waved.
What Fitzgerald did, the book didn’t say exactly.
The book said an armistice had been declared.
And my hero marched back down. One more
figurine-warrior whose life and death must,
after, be a redefinition of the word
victory.





About the Author:
Roy Bentley’s work has been recognized with fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, American Literary Review and elsewhere. He has published four books of poetry: Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books, 1992), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press, 2006), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press, 2013).

Atlas of Ohio and Nineteen Ninety

Everywhere we went that summer, the heat had the last word.
But delight is an isotope of knowing to pile into your beater-car
and then take Interstate 71 South past the Mason, Ohio Bob Evans
to King’s Island. We parked. Rode the Yogi Bear yellow shuttle.
I paid at a window so that we could pass through the turnstiles
and stand still—they took a picture they said would be waiting
when we returned. I had the hand of the five-year-old, my son,
who wanted to ride everything his ten-year-old brother rode.
I walked with him. Explained height requirements. Glanced
at my wife. On the log run where you get splashed, I rode
behind her. Seated like that—her in front and me behind—
I remembered how love starts and stops and starts again.
In line for the Blue Racer, I took our oldest by the hand.
Passed by a phalanx of pedestal-mount oscillating fans.
The maintenance man with a mermaid tattoo on his arm
smiled at my army. Slapped some pink putty on a crack
running floor to ceiling where riders waited, staring up
at a repair job resembling nothing if not old bubblegum
or the spun-sugar on a paper cone they call cotton candy.
My standing army was two boys, a puzzle of a wife and me.
I was thirty-six, more than a little breathless from life thus far.
A maintenance man had looked at me as if he understood.
And I wanted to let the cool breeze be the years to come
as I listened to my wife explaining gravity, centripetal
and centrifugal forces, as I took a seat in a coaster car
the way my father had before I enlisted in the air force.
At the drop, that smiling-stranger oldest boy of mine
raised his arms. I love recalling how happy we were.
I like to take out the key chain stamped
Kings Island
and stare into its lighted room at the photograph of us
and consider who I was then and remember the pleasure
of being that man and loved, though love is as inconstant
as currents of air or the radio on any long drive home.






About the Author:
Roy Bentley’s work has been recognized with fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, American Literary Review and elsewhere. He has published four books of poetry: Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books, 1992), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press, 2006), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press, 2013).