C. Wade Bentley

Mud Work

 

A wild tom watches us from the top
of the wooden fence, a ruff of hair around
his neck like James Dean with his leather
collar turned up, looking like he wants
to cut me but settling for the disrespect
of an extended yawn. It’s a sloppy
morning, early March, mud bubbling up
around the last patches of snow, and I
suspect the cat took to the fence line
to keep his feet dry. My granddaughter
and I, however, have work to do
in the mud, and cannot afford such
squeamishness. Bill Nye, the guinea pig,
after a fitful night during which we sat
vigil, gave up the ghost just before dawn,
lay in state, briefly, during breakfast,
in his sock-lined Crocs box, and now young
Clara looks for the perfect spot
in which to plant his remains. She hasn’t
discussed her views on heaven, with me,
and does not request that prayers
be prayed over his white-and-tan form,
nor over the final resting place she chooses
under the birch tree where we have often
watched brilliant goldfinches and nuthatches
hanging upside down from its branches,
and where now we root in the dark soil
at its base. My eye on the cat hunched
on the fencepost like a raven, I tell her
we will need to dig deeply if we hope
to keep good Bill from a premature
great gettin’ up morning, and she sets
to the work like a fervent acolyte, or
like a kid up to her elbows in mud.

 

 

Screw Your Courage

 

King: Indeed, I’m nothing if not brave.
Fool: In truth thou speaketh, nothing.
King: I am of two minds about that comma.
Fool: Pray, pay it, sirrah, as is your custom, no mind.
The Fall of Fresno

 

It goes without saying that when we hear
the bomb blast, I will not be running towards
it with the heroes. Nor will I step in front
of you to take a bullet. Sorry. And in a thousand
smaller ways, I have long ago proven the true
measure of this man. As you well know,
I will leave one milliliter of milk in the carton,
so as not to be the one tasked with throwing it
out. I will snore a little louder when we both
hear the dog whining to be let out too early

in the morning. When we are watching
your favorite show about the bachelor who
test-drives a showroom full of well-equipped
women, you never hear the caustic dialogue
running through my head, only the occasional,
passive-aggressive, “I’ll bet she would go
to the kitchen and get him a beer.” It goes
without saying that the kids come to me
with their requests for later curfews and greater
allowances, knowing I will fold like a cheap suit.

So when I tell you I wish I could take your place
in that hospital bed, tubes snaking in and out
of you, wish it could be you telling me the lame
joke about Death going into a bar and the bartender
says, “what’ll you have?” and Death says, “the guy
on the third barstool”—we both know it has nothing
to do with self-sacrifice or a greater tolerance
for pain, and everything to do with going first,
with not being the one left holding the bag
of all the days to come, left to die a thousand times.

 

 

 

C Wade bentley

 

C. Wade Bentley teaches and writes in Salt Lake City. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in journals such as Cimarron Review, Best New Poets, Rattle, New Orleans Review, Pembroke Magazine, and Poetry Northwest. A full-length collection of his poems, What Is Mine, was published by Aldrich Press in January of 2015. You may visit wadebentley.weebly.com for complete information about his publications and awards.

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