A WAILER AND AN ARM WAVER
At dinner my mother and granny argue over Sin:
whether divorce is ever punishable by damnation.
Mother switches the talk to my father’s desertion,
naming my absent parent The Old Fucker Himself.
My mother is seven months pregnant and broke.
Of course my granny scolds her for using fucker.
After, my grandmother is reading in the bedroom
in a black housedress, her only other housedress
laundered, folded away in a Samsonite two-suiter
under the bed. She is prepared for a long bus ride,
Ohio to Neon, Kentucky, given my mother’s rages.
A wailer and arm waver, Granny has the Bible open
across her lap. Now she deciphers a parable haltingly,
a finger tracking the lines. Pausing to sound out words
like Samaritan and beckoneth and verily and even thou.
Finished, she asks me to help her kneel on a throw rug.
I help her down. Feel the rug’s ridges and crenellations.
I’m beside her as she starts to pray aloud for my father.
For her worked-thin daughter who has no use for God.
Up go the arms. Out comes a barely audible O Lord!
Roy Bentley is the author of four books of poetry and several limited edition chapbooks. Poems have appeared in journals including The Southern Review, Blackbird, Shenandoah, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review and elsewhere—most recently, in the anthologies New Poetry from the Midwest and Every River on Earth. He has received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as fellowships from the arts councils of Ohio and Florida. He teaches at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, New Jersey and makes his home on the Jersey Shore.