Fitzgerald and Zelda, February 1921: Poem

“All good writing is swimming under water
  and holding your breath.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the photograph, Zelda wears a fur and hat.
Scott has on a top coat and gloves. It’s winter.
He said Zelda had “an eternally kissable mouth.”
Said that he loved stories of her in Montgomery.
He’d begin: Montgomery had telephones in 1910.
It’s April. A warm day. Magnolias are blooming.
Zelda—ten years old—has rung up the operator

to dispatch the fire department. She climbs out
onto a roof to wait rescue. Lots of white blossoms
are falling on small shoulders. Landing in her hair.
She’s sitting, smoothing her dress when they come.
Whatever else, they looked swell in photographs.
He’d say, Zelda drew flyers from Camp Sheridan
who did figure-eights over her Montgomery home.

They crashed their biplanes trying to impress her.
What he would never say: Then she married me.
As if what happened to her later was his fault
or a series of regrets for which he was to blame.
In 1921, each existed to watch the other move—
This Side of Paradise was a hit, he was soaring.
Zelda wanted to soar herself. Float like a ballerina.

At the end of the day she wanted what she wanted:
a ticket out of Alabama. Excitement. Breathlessness.
After her third breakdown, the years in sanitariums,
visitors whispered, She was a beauty once. Trapped
at last in a burning asylum, the fire real, Zelda Sayre
Fitzgerald died locked in. Screaming to be rescued.
He would’ve been dead, buried, for years by then.

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. Very disingenuous of the editors to redact a reader’s comment, particularly after it’s already led to a response from your learned contributor. If that’s the case, why invite comments? jbs

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