Roy Bentley

Pine Row Issue No. 9 Spring 2024 - Featured Poet


Doug Barnett had it, swagger, when he unpocketed his

tube of Chapstick in a Kroger check-out line, flashing

his finest Marlon-Brando at a check-out girl whose

name tag read Savannah in black block lettering. Doug

mock-crooned Savannah while applying the Chapstick.

It was summer and he looked good, I guess. Muscled

from a year working in the Sunnyhill Mining Operation,

going underground for a United Mine Workers fair-wage.

I’d better tell you this was nineteen seventy-one. And,

then, the rest is the hard truth of the Draft and the United

States Military, who wrote the book on bullshit-swagger.

Doug had been drafted and dodged Nam and surprise 

surprise thought he was God’s gift to check-out girls.

The woman wouldn’t look up at Doug. Not at first. But

she was someone who understood how it works. Meaning 

she liked what she saw, saw her chance and took it. Maybe

she wanted sex herself, now that I think of it. But then she

leaned over the red treadmill-belt, asking Cash or check?

and displayed her ah-ha moment of revealing cleavage

as if New Lexington, Ohio wasn’t a big enough birdcage.

As if she’d consider bouncing, topless, on a trampoline 

to snag a hillbilly who’d survived the US Army and had 

enough gas in the soul-tank to come on to her. She wanted 

out while she was still young, a grin canceling any doubt.

Roy Bentley is an Appalachian-American poet and university creative writing professor. Bentley is also the author of Swagger published earlier this year, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, chosen by Billy Collins in 2018 as finalist for the Miller Williams poetry prize; Starlight Taxi: Poems (Lynx House, 2013), which won the 2012 Blue Lynx Prize for poetry; The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press, 2006), winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize in 2006; Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books, 1992); and Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), which was selected for the 1986 University of Alabama Press Poetry Series. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Rattle, and elsewhere. He has received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, six Ohio Arts Council fellowships, and a Florida Division of Cultural Affairs Fellowship.  

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