Three Poems by Roy Bentley

On the Diamond behind Garfield Elementary, Melvin White Proves There Is but One Boog Powell

When Dave Wheeler fielded the hard one-hopper
to short, he fired the ball to Melvin White,
forgetting the huge first baseman
moved like molasses.
Melvin caught it on his sternum.
You could hear the breath escaping
all the way to center field.

Falling in love is like that,
begging air as the infield laughs hysterically.
You could be dying, blue and big as Melvin White.
It could be spring and the woman married.
She could be dark
and fine as air the hour after rain.
Still, they would double over laughing,
the pain getting worse.

And after she had gone,
you would catch her scent, imagine
strong small hands halving apricots
as you fall face first, runner advancing.
Of course, eventually the pain would ease.
You would stand.
It would be important that the game go on.
You would recall a score,
how far behind you were when it hit,
only this bright burning in the lungs.


River Baptism

Some were on the trampled bank in their Sunday best.
Some were boys hiding above in the trees and the rest were
in the water. We had slithered through that summer-Kentucky
undergrowth so we wouldn’t miss out. And had climbed an oak.
We’d overheard Granny Potter say the locals would be acting out
circus-come-to-town Pentecostalism, baptizing (by immersion)
in the mine-runoff-polluted North Fork of the Kentucky River.
Converts dropped the Hefty-bagged change of clothes carted
across God-rendered fields and thickets. My cousins Roger
and Ricky Dellinger were in the tree, too. They pronounced
the last name like the gangster John Herbert Dillinger who
broke out of jail in Ohio in 1933 and skedaddled that way:
toward the Letcher County Line and some outlaw-family
who were to be his salvation. Roger worshipped Dillinger.
Habitually that summer, he pilfered apples pears peaches
from IGA while his mother, Myrtle, shopped. He’d toss
the core, the pay-as-you-go rule not in force for Roger.
Ricky Dellinger wanted to preach since his mother said
there was a hell and she wanted to miss it. All their lives,
and mine, she had read aloud—mostly to Ricky and me—
from the Bible, immersing us in a demon-snake theodicy,
Adam and Eve and an aboriginal Eden. That day, though,
a mountain woman was praising the open boat of the air
and coming up from the russet water in such an ecstatic
way that even Roger listened and tried not to spoil it—
spoil us catching sight of a pure, omnibenevolent God.
Sometimes a whole country can be as rotten as Roger.
Sometimes a limb creaks and a congregation looks up.
Sometimes you almost fall and someone catches you
and you’re not sure who it was. That day, however,
America wore a white dress that was mortared to her
seemingly incorruptible skin. And she was forgiven.

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Why Palestinian Men Fire Submachine Guns in the Direction of the Bone-colored Face of the Man in the Moon

They have forgotten physics and the Qur’an
of gravity. Bullets go up like prayers: a sky and
faint stars concede only that there are rules to this.
It’s nightfall; barrel flashes light the storefronts
and stone streets of Bethlehem. Sometimes
peace is an absolution of little thunders by a shop
that can’t keep posters of Clint Eastwood in stock.
Sometimes the sun sets like the end of a Western. […]

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Roy Bentley, finalist for the Miller Williams prize for his book Walking with Eve in the Loved City, is the author of seven books of poetry; including, most recently, American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press, who is bringing out a new & selected in 2020. He has published poetry in december, The Southern Review, New Letters, Crazyhorse, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle among others.’

“On The Diamond…,” “River Baptism,” and “Why Palestinian Men…” won the 2020 Editor’s Reprint Award and appeared in The Ohio Review and The Southern Review, respectively.