Elegy with a Mountain Doctor Riding Home from a Stillbirth
The breach was as challenging to turn as a stubborn horse.
Almost as impossible as deciding not to weep on horseback
because tears freeze. As the Bible explains: a time for crying.
His horse is as black as the centers of a brand-new doll’s eyes,
a blue-black like the absence of moonlight on a grove of laurel.
He admired the actions of beasts before the dead child came,
for an animal body, any animal or human, is supple to a point.
This boy arrived as a knapsack of forceps fractures. Dead was
when he conceded, though defeat preceded the pronouncement.
If he was ever excited by the possibilities, he’s deflated now,
recalling arterial flow soaking a mattress in a flood of failure,
the man he had been reminded again what we’re at war with
and who is, and isn’t, winning. It is either late, or very early.
No language for how the glow from a fireplace stirs shadows.
He hears D.V. as he passes on his way out. Mounts the horse.
If what we do reveals us, he’s one taking rein to keep going.
As from some afterlife, snow thickets breathe gray. Silver.
He rides in a sleep-deprived hallucination in which it drops
into the saddle behind, an apparition talking with a voice
borrowed from the antechamber of a tomb. He rides on.
Roy Bentley is the author of four books of poetry, including Starlight Taxi (Lynx House, 2013). His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, North American Review—and in the anthologies New Poetry from the Midwest and Every River on Earth. He has received fellowships from the NEA and the arts councils of Ohio and Florida. His manuscript, Nosferatu in Florida, was a finalist for the 2015 Moon City Review Poetry Prize and the 2015 New American Press Poetry Prize. He makes his home in Ohio after living in Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa, and—most recently—New Jersey.