President Harry Truman’s Eldest Grandson: A Poem

President Harry Truman’s Eldest Grandson Offers a Thousand Paper Cranes
    from the City of Hiroshima to a Bronx, New York High School
The high schoolers are listening to the grandson of the dead President
who dropped not one but two atomic bombs on the Japanese.

A lovely, insolent child with henna-highlighted hair raises a hand.
Asks if survivors feel any bitterness after all this time.

Three white-haired women are seated onstage in folding chairs.
There is a microphone center stage. The arithmetic

of ages in 1945 is calculated by the less math-phobic.
One of the women rises. Walks to the microphone.

Says, in English, Remember. In jeans and a Giants sweatshirt
the grandson hands off the chains of origami birds

as if time and space and memory are folded into shapes
that say what they say, which can never be enough.

From the rear of the gymnasium a rude noise and laughter
like lightning then thunder after an apocalypse.

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 Burgess says:

    Roy Bentley has ruined me for nearly any other poet’s work. A Bentley poem keeps yielding layer on layer, reading after reading, and not just technique but resonant meaning, the wisdom I go to poetry for.

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