A Brief History of the Rain in the Sunshine State
The first year, I saw rain crush bougainvillea blooms
and I had a vision of Andrew Jackson on a white horse,
fetlocks of the animal showing a great reflex-shudder,
Jackson’s epaulettes like suns. Second year: nothing:
the frontage road for the landfill rutted and cracked
and neighbors bitched about the armadillo tunneling
under adjacent houses. Said they’d show it no mercy.
Third year, if I even felt rain start, I’d hit the flashers.
In the convertible, I’d pull over and I’d put up the top.
By then, I knew about rain blindness in heavy traffic.
I learned to slather-wax Rain X to my car windshield:
so the torrent would river and bead: to help the wipers.
The five years I lived there I felt like Jackson’s horse:
like I lived to inhale and exhale the heat. My last July,
last night, fireworks signed the air over the Atlantic.
I remember that. And I remember losing everything
and then driving north past a place, off I-95, where
the Sinaloa Cartel shot a man. Shot his dog, too.
Florida is tough on everyone. I guess the soul
wants what it wants in the absence of mercy.
Home, Sweet Home
I saw it in Bill Potter, my mother’s brother,
working his shift and overtime and driving
across a Dayton of race riots and Segregation.
He seemed to want or need to hide a wound.
Said he bolted from east-Kentucky coal fields.
His sister / my mother Nettie would say, Hush
like the secret he was safeguarding she was too.
I used to think of their Southern-accented voices
like the sweeping sound of a straw broom: a music.
If you asked me to pick one song for Bill’s long drive
to and from Frigidaire, Inc.—“The Tears of a Clown”
by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: the clown,
by extension, hard-weeping for the country since
what’s wrong is only answered in part by the act
of lacing up a pair of work boots and stepping
onto a factory floor loud with machine promises.
Lies about the differences between want and
need, the algorithmic ratio of peril to prize.
About the Author: Roy Bentley is the author of five books of poetry, including Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press), which won the 2012 Blue Lynx Poetry Prize, The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), which was the winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize, Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books), and Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama), which won the University of Alabama Press Poetry Series Award. His fifth book, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, was a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from the University of Arkansas Press.