by Roy Bentley
To the northwest, the continual racket and candelabra of a refinery,
its stoop-shouldered rigging an exhausted colossus. To the southeast,
a trailer park named for a tributary of the Licking River, Ramp Creek,
a fouled rivulet reduced to toxic run-off no one in his or her right mind
would drink. Each day, the eyes of those who live here open onto this.
Each night, these constellations spin imperceptibly over the real work
and those disfigured from a lack of it. I belong here, where the dead
lift off with a great effort like mallards taking flight, hugging a lake
until the splashing, skittering instant they commence to ride the air.
I do not judge you. Do not judge me standing still a while in Ohio.
Here, the terrible is obvious. Here, stars are more desperate to shine.
If a life can be said to be like a motel-vacancy sign, bright against
the endlessly rolling Universal Dark, mine has important letters
dim or altogether missing in the sign. Here’s a truth: We leave
a love for one another where we can. Like any creek in Ohio
stippled with contaminants, we mirror heaven as a trailer park
and a Ford F-150 with a Dale Earnhardt sticker in the window.
One river caught fire as if it was the burning heart of the place—
smoke poured along the length of it on The CBS Evening News,
and I remember Cronkite saying, “And that’s the way it is.”
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).