Upon Hearing Paul Siebel's "Louise" on Youtube
by Roy Bently
Maybe going home on a mail train isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe
the only bad thing is being a whore who men bought ten-cent trinkets.
Not that the labor of those working in the Sex Trade is any less valuable.
Clearly, whoring is some tough work. Non-union. Long hours. Ends badly.
Maybe it had yet to end even the day she was boxed and carried to the station.
And maybe she fell dead “in the saddle,” as they say—well, you get the picture.
In matters of death and dying, less is more. But the singer, Mr. Siebel, keeps
wishing the woman who “was not half bad” Goodnight as if what he wants
for her now is what he has always wanted for himself: A train ride home
and someone to stand vigil until whatever happens next, has happened.
However a life ends, it’s too bad when one ends ugly. On You Tube,
Philly Jimbo has written “in the Nam, this guy in my hootch had
this song on 8-track tape. Played it all the time. If I hear it now
I smell the jungle.” A lot of people have Liked his comment.
As I write this, my rescue-dog Jupiter is panting in the hallway across from the door to the bedroom where my computer resides. He’s a Golden Retriever who lived on the streets of Miami for some time. Why bring up the dog? Because he’s dying. I took him to the vet in Dubuque about two weeks ago, and she told me that he wasn’t in a great deal of pain—at which point I stopped her and said, “Then I’ll take him home with me. We’ll wait until he is in a great deal of pain.” I wasn’t being a smartass, the dog has been the perfect companion for someone who writes every day. He waits patiently, most days, to go out and to be fed. Occasionally, he interrupts. But only occasionally. I call him A Writer’s Dog. And I want to spend as much time with him as I can, having asked him to take a back seat to writing almost daily.
Writing requires that sort of choosing one thing over another. And the necessary commitment can make a person unsuitable for certain activities afterwards. Like riding a motorcycle. I sold my last motorcycle some years back, having felt once too often (while riding) that my head was completely shot. A buzz of revision possibilities. I’m not complaining. Writing is a splendid way to turn off the world. But I’ve passed on many sunny days in favor of honing a poem about, well, sunny days. In short, there’s a price to pay. Concentration has a price. Like being willing to let a dying dog wait. I’ve spent over thirty years of my life as a writer for the reason that I could do nothing else even remotely as well. My panting dog Jupiter, who wants my attention while he can yet want anything—he can tell you. I’d have to say that the goal is for the work to approach being worthy of what has been given up and pants like a dying rescue dog for attention.
Roy Bentley’s work has been recognized with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Guernica and elsewhere. His books include The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana, published by White Pine Press. His latest collection of poems, Starlight Taxi, won the 2012 Blue Lynx Prize and will appear sometime in 2013.