Roy Bentley, a finalist for the Miller Williams prize for Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has published 8 books; including American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press, who just published a new & selected. He is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in New Ohio Review, The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, and Shenandoah among others. Hillbilly Guilt, his latest collection, won the 2019 Hidden River Arts / Willow Run Poetry Book Award.
Ace Hotel, Downtown LA Exterior, Jesus Saves Reverse
—a photograph by Spencer Lowell
The reverse of lasting mystery is industrial steel and neon,
shadows crosshatched onto the Chase bank and Broadway,
above the drudgery of believing one god better than another.
From an aerial view, two red words shout across rooftop LA,
in English in all weather, day and night, which is an act of faith
in a realtor who hawked the hotel one unit at a time with always
a dozen wait-listed like first-come-first-serve rooms in Heaven.
Inside, the newest occupants watch Sugar Ray connect and snap
back Jake LaMotta’s head in Raging Bull, though Robert DeNiro
is LaMotta and this Sugar Ray is an actor who unhands the ropes
as blood drips to the canvas and onto his boxing shoes, the blood
that is a checklist of what we gather while asking, What fresh hell
is this? Everywhere else, it’s the unexpected rise of the girl who
could be any of us. You can’t elevate one above another forever
and expect anything but mistrust. Go on. Show me a better god.
I’ll show you a city and messaging constellating above a world
of brutalized actors. Show me the wide, wide shore of sorrow.
I’ll find a place out of the wind where the unlucky can pause
to knock down a wasp nest and grind it into sand-nothing,
porous death belling up as that which the angels unhand.
Warships Invade Earth and Incinerate Everything in Sight with Heat Rays
In town, Samson & Delilah is playing,
the words HELD OVER on the marquee.
And in the hills, an asteroid-like thingamabob
comes crashing to earth to a Theremin soundtrack.
America-from-elsewhere must be one big bull’s-eye.
Suddenly, there’s a huge crater. Which locals approach—
meaning there’s a gesture to ask Just how fucked are we?
It involves waving flour sacks as a sign of friendliness.
And, all right, one or two do make it a few feet before
getting zapped to cinders. Followed by the cop and his
copmobile. A general named Mann is saying he has it,
the object from wherever the fuck things like that come,
surrounded. (Meaning he doesn’t.) Now, he is handing
his binoculars to Gene Barry / Dr. Clayton Forrester—
so he can see a priest reciting The 23rd Psalm before
the Holy Father is cremains in a cassock and collar.
Bombers are useless. As are insignia. Uniforms.
It’s 1953. America is weary of generals and wars.
Uber-handsome Gene Barry / Dr. Forrester takes
an ax to the redoubtable ETs, showing off for
a woman he’s rescuing. Showing everyone.
At last, we are in a church. There's praying.
Christ is toppling as, outside, invaders crash
and burn brightly to cheering in the streets—
and they might as well be carnival angels, these
toughies still standing, given southern California
has always been a sideshow, the 20th Century too.
Especially with Wilbur and Orville Wright dead
and Eisenhower as president, the war in Korea.
Maybe the end of the world begins like this—
victor-America lifted up but then returned
to a backlit earth in one cherished piece.