Poem: James Dean Kissing Julie Harris in East of Eden

Now the better future has its say.
Now the lovers open their mouths

of once-only flesh saying: Take this
longing in fair exchange for yours.

Cal, eager to earn his way, shamed
for having an old whore for a mother

then not so much disgraced as reborn
into a world where fortunes rise and

fall with the market value of beans.
The message: God would have to be

a dumbass of some cosmic magnitude
to favor dweeb-son Aron over this guy,

Cal, maybe not the Good Son but a hunk
of scorching lust to succeed, nonetheless.

That the object of Cal’s affection is his
brother Aron’s girl is her call, after all.

Free will means everything is up for grabs.
And maybe he’s dumbstruck by the offer.

But the kiss is in case there’s no heaven,
no God, this appalling existence a single

CinemaScope Paradise Lost upon which
to bestow any sort of hope of redemption.

What’s a boy to do but smooch the girl
and outshine Adam for good measure.

Roy Bentley About Roy Bentley

Roy Bentley is the author of Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama Press), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press). A new book, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has been selected by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and will be publlshed in the spring of 2018 by the University of Arkansas Press. Work from that collection has appeared in Shenandoah, Pleiades, Rattle, Blackbird, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.


  1. Kathleen S. Burgess says:

    Thank whatever spirits you may pray to for Roy Bentley. His poetry is always rewarding, hard won.

  2. Mary M. Brown says:

    Great poem: especially where I am sitting right now–a few miles from Fairmount, Indiana, home of James Dean.

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