By Roy Bentley
The Bright and Hungry Future of Hawks
_____and the explosions
_____of feathers where blue jays
_____have been ripped into the bright
_____and hungry future of hawks…
_____—Bob Hicok, “My Most Recent Position Paper”
Collapsing flakes of dark dust the bite marks
on the remnant lower leaves of a species of oak,
russet leaf edges curving inward like old papyrus.
By the sea wall, winds furrow the lake surface.
And a few deer, thriving in arboretum-like calm,
startle at an impressive wavefall then compass on.
We are not that feast of undergrowth nor are we
the leaf eaters nor the alchemy that sustains them.
Nor dawn-veneered pleasure craft in the distance
approaching amphibians hopscotching the reeds.
On the lake we strike sail and come in to lash lines
to valleys between shadows, north spun as a matter
of preference as light trills the beach where hawks
circle with the discipline of daybreak near water.
Something as Simple as Boys and Girls
_____—Patty Griffin, “Mother of God”
In the waist-high grasses, we choreographed violence.
Each youngster was a foot-soldier’s absent backstory.
The movies unspooled a nation of pissed-off cowboys
and modern bad-guy battalions of Nazis and Japanese.
Sticks were machine-guns. We pointed. Made noises.
In the tumbledown, derelict acreage of an old orchard,
I fell dead by the cider house. Accepting the challenge,
a pubertal girl with wisps of Ohio wildflowers plaited
into her hair, a waif I worshipped thereafter, tumbled
with such ease after being shot that it seemed genuine.
At this moment I see her reach for her budding chest.
A pretend-slug has interrupted her in the act of turning
and so she spins with the unraveling grace of the body
answering the gravid edicts of momentum and gravity.
I don’t want to say I wanted her, though I did, if want
is the word for something as simple as boys and girls
speculating what it would be like to touch one another
for no good reason but the unqualified pleasure of it.
Saved by Grace in Ohio
She wanted Jesus to anoint her as she descended the ladder
and waded into the deep end of a backyard swimming pool
in Kettering, Ohio. I wanted my Easter shoes not to hurt.
She wore a swimsuit under the robe, a borrowed swimsuit,
my aunt who prayed and gestured as she waited her turn.
The blue one-piece swimsuit—my mother’s—fit my aunt
like it was hers. In those days, they wore their hair alike
and traded clothes and were asked if they were twins.
Across town, my father had remarried and forgotten us
for the better part of 1964. Mother worked in a factory
but had called off from her job at Inland Manufacturing
to be with her sister who had given up cigarettes for this.
I was standing by the pool filter, which kicked on and off
while the pastor—also in the pool—talked baptism and
how it meant that you were washed in the blood of Christ.
Mother was happy but couldn’t wrap the bath towel around
her sister fast enough when she came out of the pool, runnels
streaming from her similar hair and echo of a body in the light.
The fact she went down into the swimming pool branded her,
my aunt, a believer. I heard my mother saying Here, Peggy
and helping her sister as if it was critical she play some part.
Lord knows she was accepting of her sibling thanking Jesus,
though when she lit her cigarette in the car she blew smoke
in my aunt’s direction before cranking down her window.
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. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Guernica, Shenandoah, North American Review, Pleiades and Prairie Schooner among other journals. He has published 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) which won the 2012 Blue Lynx Poetry Prize. He lives in Pataskala, Ohio.