A Poem by Roy Bentley

Woman Hanging Out Her Family’s Washing during the Harsh Winter in Eastern Kentucky



Like my grandmother, the dress doesn’t fit her.

And it’s thick sweaters instead of an overcoat.


Like my dead mother, she has wild black hair

and props up a clothesline with a yew branch.


A dark moves by the creek. A snake perhaps.

Ice stalactites from the eaves of a row house


testify to what’s necessary to survive here:

to let pain melt then forget to summon it


even once as the sound of a slow freight.

When she was a fleur-de-lis too beautiful


for the snapshot moment, she showed up

the sun and moon. Now, she is filigreed


with tattooing and scarring and starlight

in laceless, newspaper-filled work shoes.


Soon, she’ll glimpse herself in a mirror,

a ghost straight out of Dorothea Lange.


The place is a heaven of snakes, though

seeing one in winter is always a bad sign.



Roy Bentley is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the Ohio Arts Council. His recent book of poems Walking with Eve in the Loved City was selected by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize. Finishing Line Press is publishing his sixth book, Body of a Deer by a Creek in Summer, this October.


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