The Ghost of Doc Bentleyby Roy Bentley
Maybe I do like being in the world again, even if it is
only in a poem by my great-nephew who was too good
to be a doctor—that’s one of those sentences you speak
and then wish you could change it. It’s what makes for all the wrong
in the world: our overstating something like that.
The boy writing this would’ve been a doctor had he passed
high school chemistry. Anyway, I’m recalling the afternoon
we commenced stonework on the First Bank of Neon. It was
nineteen thirty-two. Seems I recall because Sister’s boy Roy
was born that October. My nephew. I had the stone quarried
the summer before he was born—drew up the plans myself.
Roy was the father of this one with the reason to believe that
the life of a mountain doctor is Shakespearean enough to rate
an appearance as a ghost in a poem that takes place in Neon.
I don’t remember why I waited so late in the season to start
building the bank, but I remember it worked out in the end.
In those days I liked to stand at the foot of a prodigious oak
and look up and down Main Street like I owned every inch.
Maybe I smoked as I watched the A & P open, the sheriff
begin rounds, the sheriff’s boots noisy on wood but less so
in mud—I don’t miss mud: the afterlife lacks mud altogether.
That day, I was standing in the light, watching the town I was
helping become something in the way I had become a doctor—
one hard thing accomplished at a time. I was thinking about that.
And, sure, Ivy Wright started up the street and waved solicitously
and maybe I was thinking I wasn’t dead yet and so waved back,
quite-alive, and morning tumbled into place like limestone blocks
I saw promise more than solitude. I strained at my suspenders.
The living quarry that pride like it was a wide coal seam or
an outcropping on the hillside announcing where to dig.
Roy Bentley is the author of Walking with Eve in the Loved City, chosen by Billy Collins as finalist for the Miller Williams poetry prize; Starlight Taxi, winner of the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize; The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana, chosen by John Gallaher as winner of the White Pine Poetry Prize; as well as My Mother’s Red Ford: New & Selected Poems 1986 – 2020 published by Lost Horse Press. Poems have appeared in Blackbird, Crazyhorse, The Southern Review, Rattle, Shenandoah, New Ohio Review, and Prairie Schooner among others. His latest is Beautiful Plenty (Main Street Rag, 2021).