If Sydney Greenstreet's Bicameral Belly-roll Could Speak, It Would Say
My father exited the house with a bucket of hot, soapy water
and couldn’t have cared less why his oldest child had run away,
only that the car put to that good use stank of asses and armpits.
When he flung open one or the other car door, a thick cloud
of countervailing needs rolled out. I felt my heart quicken.
He didn’t seem to care I’d occupied the present moment
with three others in the red Ford Galaxie. Six whole days
of driving practically non-stop from Ohio to New Mexico.
I’d smoked some pot before the cleaning and was thinking
that if Sydney Greenstreet’s bicameral belly-roll could speak,
it would say: Bogey sold Rick’s Café Americain, packed it in
after hearing me—a fat roll—soliloquize about love. I wasn’t
being serious. Talking to talk. Like the rest who don’t know
a funeral litany from a fart or bereavement of the bowels.
My mother bought the ’64 with the money she earned
at factory work during the years they were divorced.
I had taken it, the reminder-Ford, without permission,
had gone on the fuck-all joy ride to end all joy rides.
Now, on a May afternoon, he was doing his best
to tip the matrimonial scales back in his favor--
the zero sum of negotiated love that shouldn’t be
transferable or too easily cancelled but is sometimes.
Bubbles formed and reformed on chrome below doors,
the tiny spheres and hemispheres like the eyes of potatoes
before they let go. I wasn’t paying out enough hose and felt
someone trying to dislodge me from the neon glow of my joy
at being back. And my father had suggested they sell the car
to punish me. Where was his punishment for non-support
and abandonment? I jerked with some force on the hose
as bubbles called up the ampersands of the characters
in old movies: Sydney Greenstreet agglomerating
into unprecedented form before finally bursting.
About the Author: Roy Bentley is the author of four books of poetry, including Starlight Taxi (Lynx House, 2013). His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, North American Review—and in the anthologies New Poetry from the Midwest and Every River on Earth. He has received fellowships from the NEA and the arts councils of Ohio and Florida. His manuscript of poems, Nosferatu in Florida, was a finalist for the 2015 Moon City Review Poetry Prize and the 2015 New American Press Poetry Prize. He makes his home in Ohio after living in Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa, and New Jersey.