Wonder Wheel

A blond woman with a Samsonite suitcase at the border
of a Coney Island ride, a broken-promises look on her face
like she’s figured out that she may have to rescue herself.

Look, it’s just a photograph I took off the Internet today,
after I decided the United States of America, my country,
is your-fucked-up-brother-in-law stupid. An uber-idiot. 

Jim Harrison says the Statue of Liberty needs a necklace
of human skulls—"her great iron lips quivering in a smile”—
and that skulls striking together is the true sound of history.

America, you’re like a woman who wants to get reckless
in the Men’s Room of a coffee shop. For shits and giggles.
You’re pissed off at yourself. And more than a little crazy.

We’re on the Wonder Wheel, you bet. And if I like Woody,
it isn’t that I excuse anything because his movies are funny,
especially since only one or two early ones made me laugh.

If I consider the teals and goldenrods of the leaves on the
woman’s print dress in Wonder Wheel to be a bit much, 
it’s that autumn colors suggest—what else?—falling.

About the Author: Roy Bentley is the author of five books. He has been awarded fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Walking with Eve in the Loved City, his most recent book, was selected as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and published by the University of Arkansas.

Tasseography in Blade Runner

“…morphology, longevity, incept dates…”
               —Roy Batty, Blade Runner

You don’t have to read tea leaves to see that
the Nexus 6 standing over you wants answers:
What will happen to me in 2019? Why the Stars
& Bars by the door? Why do you humans treat
this planet like some curio shop for tchotchkes?
Is that “Free Bird” on your alarm-clock radio?

This yellow-haired Roy has just awakened you
from a deep sleep. Now for his tantrum, a rant
lost like the transmissions from dead worlds,
each signal creating a theory of Creation and
why all the planets wobble on a random axis.
No one comes home from a distant galaxy for
the purpose of dying to a Lynyrd Skynyrd song.
The air in the room is a canvas of graves, talk
of Routine Retirements no one cares to solve.
You tell him your name is Roy, too. He says,
Then, tell me, Roy Two: Why am I doomed?  
He’s armed. Nothing to lose. You know this
as you reach for the hunting knife you keep
between box springs and mattress. You grasp
the handle like they do in the movies. Clear
sheath and bedding. Bury the blade. Wait. 
Something in the DNA then decides which
sleeper next enters the gauzy mausoleum.
The sun is up as usual and “Free Bird” is
still playing. Your hand is still on the knife.
If this part of your life had been predicted
that cup of tea would’ve been knocked over
long ago. This is all that loneliness you let go,
all that separation making the knife shine so. 

 

 

 

About the Author: Roy Bentley is the author of Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama), Any One Man (Bottom Dog), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House). A new book, his fifth, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has been selected by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams poetry prize and will be published by the University of Arkansas Press in spring.

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.