I. It Is Likely You Are Lost, Disoriented
and in the wrong room and those called caregiver
would soon be angry and try again to rob you
of your pride at moving without being helped.
O mother I am so sorry that your life, any life,
can come to this in an age of so much possibility
that all we can do is let it break the heart again.
I have come awake on a leather couch in Iowa
and count even that as blessing. Shall I judge
your life as the fate of all who live and must die?
Are you Spirit somewhere and sad? As for me,
I am sad beyond what I know as customary sadness
and wake someone else, someone who must sleep.
And I tell her a dream-story of you, feeling what it is
to be in the wrong room and naked, everyone gone on
as if the woman-girl who played basketball for the Pirates
of Fleming-Neon in Kentucky in the nineteen forties
had never lived. Never married. Can you understand
why we/they will not wake to your pain? How terribly
hard it is, even for one who loved you and was loved
by you. Perhaps that is why we are so dazed. I will not
say that they have not been awakened by their dreams.
But tomorrow they must rise and make toast and coffee
and go to a job, dreading the same end will befall them.
The same sort of custodian shove them out of the line of sight.
Tonight, I’ve walked at least once in your sad confusion.
In necessary numbness do you know you are loved yet?
Forgive us. Try. As we try to care beyond caring.
Remember, Spirit-Mother, how hard it is just to live
with the awful surprises of each day. Love us again
though that love will fail and we will be no wiser.
II. Raymond Carver's Grave
I went looking for Raymond Carver’s grave
but never found it.
Instead I saw the waters off Puget Sound
and beaches littered with madrona,
a wood hard enough to break a saw-blade.
Make a workman take his time, working
with the care and attention to detail
of an apprentice carpenter.
It's gorgeous wood and as unappreciated
as any moment we call Beautiful.
I was looking for the grave of Raymond Carver
but wandered around all day
the way any one of his characters might have—
like I was looking for the world we enter
when we die. An afterlife. Or this one.
Either of which is, at times, heaven or hell.
Or both, given your perspective and whether
you believe in such things as Happiness.
I suppose I was happy to find nothing, finally.
Nothing is what you get and then can keep.
I stopped for an hour in Port Townsend,
where a bookstore owner answered Who?
but a bartender sporting a ponytail offered,
“Yeah, he used to drink here. Nice guy.”
III. American Landscape with Boys in A Car
The year: 1971. The destination: Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The car was a ’64 Ford Galaxie. Lipstick-red with red interior.
Bench seats and an AM radio. Bald tires. Signature circular
taillights with the chrome centers that were hard to wax.
Who could predict we’d get the opportunity—my parents
at a funeral hundreds of miles from Ohio, in Kentucky—
to steal the car and go tearing ass out of The Buckeye State?
I thought the first night would go on forever, but it lasted
as far as the Illinois State Line where we slept and woke
before dawn and read maps by a dome light. What I remember
of the second day is getting to Route 66 then Route 66 rattling past
like strings of boxcars—the radio on and Rod Stewart singing
“Maggie Mae” over the voices of first one then another high-school
truant promising I’m game for never going back if you are.
By the second night we were so scared we couldn’t sleep.
And I remember the pleather seat stuck to me with my shirt off.
The third day the road pulled us like a hipflask from a pocket
while James Taylor sang “You’ve Got a Friend” over the bullshitting,
what boys do to avoid talking about what it is that bothers them.
All that May morning, what kept us going were the changes
in landscape—west Texas was no Ohio, and New Mexico
was this latitude longitude of magical realism: desert foliage
and the beginnings of mountains the color of lips brushing sky.
I’m sure I wanted to kiss Adventure full on the mouth, we all did.
At four-thirty in the afternoon that day, we drove into Santa Fe.
We couldn’t see home in the Spanish architecture or the faces
of those who stared if they even looked at us, so we called home.
They told us to turn the fuck around. And we pointed the Ford north,
stopping at the boyhood home of Mark Twain, Lincoln’s Springfield house,
checking off the fear of being someone to whom nothing ever happens.
ROY BENTLEY's poems have appeared in journals and literary quarterlies including the Southern Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, American Literary Review, Indiana Review, Pleiades, the Florida Review, The Journal, New Virginia Review, Nimrod, Laurel Review, Drunken Boat, The Cortland Review, Mid-American Review and Sou’wester to name a few. Recent work has appeared, or is to appear, in Guernica, UCity Review, and Blackbird.
He's received awards including the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in poetry (2002), the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs individual artist fellowship (2009), and six Ohio Arts Council fellowships in poetry. Book publications include four books; The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana won the White Pine Press poetry award in 2006. Starlight Taxi, the latest, won the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry in 2012 and has just been published by Lynx House Press.