Roy Bentley is the author of Walking with Eve in the Loved City, a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize, and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House), which won the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize. A new book, American Loneliness, is due out from Lost Horse Press.
The Good Ones
Say you’re admitted to Eastern State Hospital and
a woman. Consider the daily threats to your person.
Forget the beatings and the forfeiture of legal rights,
the loss of privacy. Forget your other life. Say hello
to peephole galleries. Choruses of all-male voices.
You're in an anteroom. A chamber for hydrotherapy.
Tiled walls. A swimming pool without patients and
without water, no little mainsails of waves to watch.
Without the reflection of who you can see yourself
becoming—that face to stare back—or the surface
fractures of your image at the instant your skirt is
being pulled up. The insane are a voice, a shout for
what is needed in addition to a blind hope to survive.
Listen. Hear him ask if I like that? Meaning everything
but what I prefer multiplied by him doing what he wants.
Still, the good ones unwrap after. Offer you a hand up.
If this were love or courtship, I’d blush. Maybe check
my bobbed hairstyle in institutional shining surfaces.
Perhaps straighten my slip. Finger-comb my bangs.
At the very least: display a moment of deference.
But these sea-scents spilling from me echo
like a cologne that tyrannizes from a distance—
I’ll track him for days in my sleep until I am
roused to enter, by invitation, the fresh hell
of some other in the dark hallway ahead.