In May, in a town in northeastern Iowa, on a street
where oak and maple were reacquiring their canopies,
you had let the dog in. Had begun toweling the animal.
Its brindled back-fur beaded in places. Bronze colored.
An almost-beautiful trajectory of droplets flew outward
as you held up the handtowel-shield to avoid getting wet.
It was never clear when you had begun to cry. It seemed
you’d been crying for a time before either of us noticed.
Inside sliding-glass doors, the downpour outside voiced.
A spring rain has a sort of voice when waves of resonant
drumming make the air buzz with a missive that nothing
is fixed in the sleepy constituencies along the Mississippi
where workplace hypocrisy hovers always at floodstage.
Some dawns in the Midwest gild a sea of lawn furniture
and Weber grills and blossoms as if sudden termination
belongs universally to the light of places other than here.
Some afternoons the pulled threads of the towel unravel,
part of the wider paradigm of what unstitches around us.
I guess you were yet too young to know which of your
earned grievances with the world was correct or might
transubstantiate a little noncommittal smile for show.

Roy Bentley’s work has been recognized with fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. His poem, “Famous Blue Raincoat,” won the American Literary Review Poetry Contest in 2008, judged by Tony Hoagland. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, American Literary Review and elsewhere. Books include Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books, 1992) and The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press, 2006). Starlight Taxi, his latest, won the 2012 Blue Lynx Prize in Poetry and will appear in 2013 from Lynx House.

My wife Gloria lost her job, and the poem is my attempt to bolster our survival mechanisms. Being “let go” from your job is never easy, but this time around she seemed to think we’d found a home. Somewhere to live out the rest of our lives. (My feelings about Iowa have always been filtered through the affection I hold for the last place we lived, Florida.) She tells me she took some strength from the poem, and that she has an interview scheduled soon in Ohio.




Copyright 2009