Under duress, who wouldn’t relinquish whatever
anomalies of character had been borrowed as faith?
Take the whitish, quilled torso of St. Sebastian—
a bull’s-eye for archers taking aim in the hard light.
See them pare everything down to what anchors the eye.
Isn’t the articulate flight of an arrow one form of truth?
And if Joan of Arc bellowed herself hoarse about God
in a rodomontade of rain patter, delivering a soliloquy
about the Almighty’s love for All Things French—
aren’t we exultant it isn’t our luck that has run out,
that whatever tinder and kindling has been lit and
smolders in earnest is preordained for someone else?
Trying to make sense of sacrifice is like watching
gravediggers bury something in the shade of trees.
The trees aren’t there to tent and cool the diggers.
Trees are alive and filled with leaves or they aren’t.
And they do what they do above brooding grasses,
noosing the hour to the affairs of men and beasts.
If the light is weak, it still falls on the diggers and
on the work of their hands. An accidental blessing.
It is the world of graves. And shadowed workmen
sweating as their shovel blades break into shine.
Roy Bentley’s stories and poems have appeared in the Southern Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, American Literary Review, Pleiades and elsewhere. His latest book is The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana which won the White Pine Press poetry award in 2006. A chapbook entitled Captain America Gets Arlington Burial (Pudding House Publications) is due out in 2012. Lately, he makes his home in an area of Iowa often referred to as Sundown Mountain.