I had stepped back from your lesson of the heavens.
We’d gone inside. Gotten you into Care Bear pajamas.
You were ready for a story about a pink-blanketed pony.
I began: She let herself be lifted up and handed the reins.
And when we finished, you were wide awake. So I put you
on your springed horse Wonder. Always, that giddy-child joy.
The other story that summer was the chemical plant explosion.
Columbus reporters and the Sky-Cam chopper elbowed forward
for a look at flags of smoke and the burned-beyond-all-recognition.
The accident was near where I’d tried to teach you the constellations.
That night, you said, you felt the hard plastic of the Jenny Lind potty
shake. You said you recalled night braiding flames that, later, forced
a frightened neighborhood into lines of cars. ‘Splosion! you offered.
Once, your grandfather Bentley was reading in the john, pants down
in Thule, Greenland, under arctic generator light, an aurora borealis,
when a B-52 Stratofortress and H-bomb cargo let down out of fuel.
It shook the Quonset hut john, the impact, but he rode out the jolt.
Think of this when you get where you are going. Celebrate what is
far off and moving as filtered, eclipsed light. Maybe not even light,
by definition, by the time it shakes the dark at your back. I did not
leave you in that Ohio. And now, years later, you tell me an aunt,
90 and counting, has said that she is afraid for your immortal soul.
I’ve lived far too long hearing explosions like that under a heaven
of stars hotter than hells she imagines from the comfort of home.
Roy Bentley is the recipient of six Ohio Arts Council fellowship awards, as well as fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. He is the author of four collections of poetry: Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press). He lives in Pataskala, Ohio.