Childhood’s End: Life Poem On the Eve of Donald Trump

Image of Donald Trump as Time's Person of the Year

Childhood’s End

Back then, I followed my mother around
looking for approval and was shortchanged.
What is a life if not learning the difference
between enough and not nearly enough.

I recall that she had a hillbilly-simple rage.
Which, most often, she might aim at herself;
but, sometimes, at anyone nearby. And me.
I learned, later, that she’d been a hired girl

for a bed. Meals. Clearly, she was ashamed.
Still, she was proud of what she had learned.
That you overcome poverty, maybe anything,
by working for what is, always and repeatedly,

less than you need. A bedside table was books:
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and
scholarly works on the antebellum South. She
was born in Letcher County, Kentucky. After

the War of Northern Aggression, and Slavery.
She read to forget. We’d climb in the Chevy,
drive downtown. Into the city. To the library.
And she’d be patient (then less so) as I chose.

Maybe Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.
Aliens have landed. Taken over. Have hooves,
horns, a reptilian tail. And attitude. Like my
mother who knew what it takes just to live.

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. It is “The End of the World as we Know It!” It is the greatest existential threat to this country since the American Civil War. How very very sad…

  2. Thank You.. For creating a space where voices are shared.

  3. It would be nice to keep personal politics out of this otherwise informative respectable publication on Steinbeck and not be so Histrionic. You lose credibility.

  4. Steve Hauk says:

    “She read to forget.” That stopped me. I hope one still can. But it seems the world is louder and it doesn’t work like it used to. Maybe it’s just a case of getting older. When you’re young you escape into reading to learn about the world and experiences. When you’re older those same stories can remind you of experiences you’ve had that you might want to forget. Thanks for the poem.

  5. Roy Bentley says:

    To anyone who thinks politics should be kept out of poetry, all you are saying is that you disagree with the portrait the writer is fashioning. If I have any skill, my job is to bring it to bear when and where, and how, I deem appropriate and in some fresh and powerful and, hopefully, unforgettable fashion.

    That editors like Will May make that happen is, to be sure, an act of courage.

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