Christmas List: Christmas Poem by Roy Bentley

Image of poet Roy Bentley with parents and sisters in Eastern Kentucky

My mother bought everything. In the stores, heads
would swivel at her pleasure, a gift to the onlookers.
Christmas Eve, although an agnostic on her best day,
she abracadabraed a grandly private stash of believing
and trusting the better story of It’s a Wonderful Life.
An avalanche messaging George Lassos the Moon.

My father (her accomplice) assembled a red bicycle
or a machine-gun on a tripod, hearing in wind outside
Christmases in poverty and scarcity in eastern Kentucky.
For him, it was all about the approximate manner of things
somewhere between the baubles and beads of consumerism
and real joy. A factory job was a house with tile flooring.

For her, giving was a prayer to an angel named Clarence.
She checked off each item like the answer to that prayer.
Toys, in nineteen-fifties cellophane, new and unwrapped,
straight from the retail shelves to a car’s trunk to call out
to a lucky, sound-asleep child as if to an entire country—
Fort Apache. Gunsmoke. Rock-‘Em-Sock-‘Em-Robots.





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.

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