White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
Roy Bentley
Roy Bentley’s work has been recognized with fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. Books include Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog, 1992) and The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine, 2006). Starlight Taxi, his latest, won the 2012 Blue Lynx Prize in Poetry and will appear sometime in 2013 from Lynx House.

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Roy Bentley

Grief, Joy Mingle at Snake Handler’s Funeral


A whisper allows us to hear the most sound.

—David Baker


Wind is once again ghosting around outside,

and as lovers rub and nuzzle by a coffee-maker

in Viewing Room Two, by the closed casket,

I begin to think about the taking up of serpents

spoken of in the Book of Mark, where I first

learned that the history of the Western World

is an all-or-nothing, here-and-gone history.


According to the eulogy, Reverend Jessop

was a furloughed miner used to making do:

like his Lord and Savior who had to reattach

an ear in dark Gethsemane to prove we are

out of place in our ill-fitting miracle skin.

Donnie Jessop’s blue suit is a poor fit, too,

after years grieving the loss of his job and



Roy Bentley

that tall brunette by the cups and creamer.

If all breath is the shared breath of God,

Reverend J. might have done well to let go

and not look heavenward and wait to register

what had happened, how the rattler whisper-

hissed as venomous rattlers will, striking

because it was pissed and because it could.


Trusting the promise that the first to die

are the first resurrected, it never occurred

to Donnie that the Lord might look away

as he draped the thing around his bare neck

and a fine fury of teeth became a theology

of the work of the body. Which began

where the work of the spirit left off.






Copyright © Roy Bentley. White Whale Review, issue 5.1

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