Meditating on Miracles and Death While Waiting at a Car Wash in Dubuque, Iowa: Poem by Roy Bentley

Image of Joan of Arc hearing the voice of God


There are the extraordinary few we hear of
like Joan of Arc, who, by some fluke of grace,
deciphered the message; had a constituency,
and gave back what they heard, regardless.
By the Men’s Room in Miracle Car Wash
in Dubuque, Iowa, I recall my cousin Bob
telling me he heard the audible voice of God.
By a turnstile in the Customer Waiting Area,
thinking of Bob and believers who overstate
in service to the cause of faith, I feel indebted,
recalling he risked censure to say there is more.
Still, I’m hoping they can get the dead bugs off,
wishing away a deep-buried scratch in the paint
where a bystander dreaming of earned heaven
or hell brushed against a passenger-side door.
I’ve been to Ohio to bury Bob who has died,
a last pronouncement that he needed to sleep
for a while. Maybe the best reason to believe
is vacuuming the interior floor of my Toyota:
the owner hires parolees and convicted felons
in service to minimum-wage second chances.
I’m thinking you have to hand it to Iowans:
with or without miracles, they get it done.
A warm, sudsy water gushes over my car
identifiable by Obama-Biden messaging
against the sea of McCain-Palin decals.
It’s as if I’m in attendance at a funeral,
Bob’s, though I recall grief is like that
and reshapes the interior self for years.
I sentinel the forced-air dryer beading
a runoff from the rinse-dry cycle, hear
Bob reminding me he sold everything
and relocated to Springfield, Missouri
on orders of vocal sounds answering,
through machine hum and grim gray,
a need to be bright silver for a while.

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 S. Burgess says:

    This is a finely woven, and big-hearted poem by Roy Bentley, and worthy of certification as among his very best.

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