Our Possible Other Lives

By Roy Bentley

In one of those my parents don’t meet.
One of them doesn’t leave Kentucky for Ohio,
and their chance street-corner collision in Dayton
is the same primal scream of car traffic but without
all that genuine shock of recognition exchanged.
Maybe my mother had met a man for pie
and was leaving the drugstore soda fountain
when another man, Bobby Burns, back from Korea,
stopped her in front of the theater in Neon, Kentucky
and said that the Fleming-Neon Pirates, the varsity
football team, called to mind a case of hemorrhoids,
which made her grin and answer Yes, Bobby, I’m free
to an invitation to see a movie that night at the Neon.
And maybe the kisses lack something, but she’s tired.

In that life, they marry and I’m born in Kentucky—
or Bobby Burns reads a story in The Mountain Eagle
and says the word Cincinnati like it was the shibboleth
he thought he needed to open the Temple of Dream.
Either way, my mother is in Ohio. My father, too.
Maybe my mother is somewhere buying a novel,
something to read herself to sleep, and so chooses
a big book, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
And so they meet in the street and start something
romantic between them because Bobby Burns
“was no Romeo,” or so she might have explained.
Whatever the case, I’d have been my mother’s son.
The firstborn of a woman denied too much for far
too long not to want everything, and then get it.

For Kate Fox

Roy Bentley About Roy Bentley

Roy Bentley is the author of four books and several chapbooks. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, and elsewhere, as well as the anthologies New Poetry from the Midwest and Every River on Earth. His collection of poems Nosferatu in Florida is currently in search of a publisher, having been a finalist for the New American Poetry Prize (twice), the Moon City Review Poetry Prize, the Gerald Cable Book Award, and the Anhinga Prize for Poetry. He has received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (in poetry) and fellowships from the arts councils of Ohio and Florida. He lives in Pataskala, Ohio.


  1. Mary M. Brown says:

    Great poem. Thanks!

  2. Of course, I love this poem….for obvious reasons.

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