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).