Your Cheatin’ Heart: A Poem

My parents sat me down in front of a circular-screen tv.
Shoved a white Tupperware of buttered popcorn in my lap.
And I saw the actor George Hamilton lip-synching Hank Sr.,
singing onstage at the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry.
My parents had spun his records most nights on an RCA turntable.
So what if the sheet music flying by in black-and-white montage
bore the likeness of Hank and not George Hamilton. So what if Elvis
tested for Hank and was rejected by Miss Audrey. And so what if she,
Hank’s wife, Miss Audrey, a redhead, was played by a platinum blonde.
Hank Williams sang about a light and dark that he carried, of shared pain,
of the burdensomeness of being poor and alive and just trying to hang on.
The gospel of the heartbreak that happens all the time to ordinary people.
So what if Hank slumped over on the road somewhere in West Virginia.
Died without any memorable last words in the back seat of a Cadillac.
He was on his way to a New Year’s Day concert in Canton, Ohio—
we were in Ohio, refugees from the collapse of the price of coal,
he was one of ours, a friend. What’s a little morphine sulfate
with a shot of B-12 (and a booze chaser) between friends?

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.

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