Three Poems by Roy Bentley Praising the Gods Among Us

Image of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner

“All That’s Missing Are the Slamming Doors”

—James Kaplan, Frank: The Voice

By 1950 Ava and Frank fought so frequently it began to affect
Frank’s performances, his voice stressed from hours of yelling.

They’d started checking in to separate suites in the same hotel.
In order to take time outs. Let the adrenaline rush fade a little.

One night, they were at it. Arguing. Ava Gardner complaining
to sister Bappie. About his mobster pals. Frank wasn’t there;

he’d gone back to his room. Ava was using words she adored.
Big words. Saying, “Bappie, he’s cosseted.” The phone rang.

It was Frank: I might as well kill myself. Then the gunshot.
And of course she rushed over. There was a body on a bed.

A gun in the hand of the body, a blue smoke ungarrisoned
from the gun. And Ava Gardner threw herself on the body

and the body rolled over and said, Ava? like she was crazy.
Gunshots—even one gunshot—in the middle of the night

meant David O. Selznick was sent for to handle police,
the newspapers. What are we to make of this? Nothing.

Unless you’re Frank Sinatra and see the nineteen fifties
as a river in flood, all the boats tasked with one rescue.

Image of Paul Newman

Newman as Newman

The afternoon Gloria Regalbuto answered Paul Newman’s
question about his race car, a red-white-and-blue 300 ZX,
Number 33, they were at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

She was a worker at an information desk, Newman was
Newman, and yet she managed, Off the track. Corner 7.
He had a can of Budweiser in his hand. Drank. Aimed

it-would-be-worth-it blue eyes at her. She wasn’t driving.
He was from Cleveland—where she was born, grew up—
and he asked. And she mouthed what a passenger voice

in her Bose headphones told her to say. She was a wife,
kids—a boy (Eoin) and a girl (Erin)—a PhD from OSU.
In this other capacity, she had inspected his underwear,

white Nomex with the red P.L. Newman over one breast.
He was 62. Gray-white at the temples. Thin as memory.
If she ever wanted a story to watch her back like anyone

searching the rear view for a next danger, next triumph,
here was that story: the V-8 blare of Camaros Firebirds
Mustangs Barracudas saying 1987 would be in her ears

for months, Newman finishing 5th (next day) because
a life is an endurance race you never win without
risking everything as you shout Shit! and leap.

Image of Erinn Ruth and Gloria Regalbuto Bentley


Here comes the grim-faced urologist in surgical scrubs,
the bluegreen uniform in the service of the way of all flesh.
When he stops, his speech affixes the confining fit of gravitas
to the subject at hand. He says he doesn’t know anything yet.
No novice, he brushes off a Thank you like a blood spatter.
The guy across from me is in street clothes and drinking
Schweppes Ginger Ale through a bendable drinkstraw.
I recall the IV sedation. What I said to a nurse who
woke me after, saying Roy once and then Roy again:
it was as if I had been in bed with a three-day fever
and it had broken and hers was the first face I’d seen—
I told her that I thought God a woman, a black woman.
And all right with my saying that, she said, You can talk
as if male citizens of the Garden State are always talking
and here’s this one more dumb ass coming out of his fog.
Something to say about the world. His small place in it.
In the lobby of Shore Outpatient Surgicenter I had heard
two Italian men recall the movie Moonstruck, one saying
he never forgot Nicholas Cage telling Cher that most men
are unfaithful in order to cheat death. And so I’m thinking
about that—men, death, lies—when an attendant arrives.
He’s a white goatee his mouth opens and closes within.
Another bearer of anonymous kindness. I recall telling
the RN borrowing the face of God that I meant what
I said to her, even coming awake like that, and I hear
Go through there, urinate, and you can get dressed.
The stream is bloody. I don’t know what to make
of what I let go that scalds the water and the white
bowl red-orange, but it’s spring near the Atlantic
and redbuds stain the frail air on the drive home.

Photo of Erinn Ruth and Gloria Regalbuto Bentley by Roy Bentley.

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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