I’ve put on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
as Butch church-keys his Pepsi, puncturing triangles
in the top of the can. He takes a swallow. Smiles
his chef’s-kid-from-Ford-Avenue-Detroit big smile.
Ringo Starr is saying that he gets by with a little help
from friends—which is how Butch Thompson says we
all get by, isn’t it? Butch is short, so he pulls himself
up to croon into the windchimes in the living room.
His afro bounces as he moves. It sways then holds
like some black dandelion, if there is such a thing.
Butch is engaged. Says he likes being a love object—
another smile. He likes being in the Air Force and
renting a trailer off-base. Changing records, I tell him
I read that the backing track is Ringo Starr on the drums,
Paul McCartney on piano, George Harrison on lead guitar,
Lennon on the cowbell. He asks me to put on Joe Cocker.
The album is his and Butch breaks out Black Joe Cocker:
a voice like gravel through a drinkstraw: spastic judders
in a country he hopes is his home where he is young
and unlikely to see service overseas and, to hear him
tell it, happy. I will always see him like this, Butch:
singing into the windchimes like he has a dream
that has everything to do with Sundays in Illinois,
a trailer piled to the ceiling vents with Forgiveness.
Roy Bentley, finalist for the Miller Williams prize for his book Walking with Eve in the Loved City, is the author of seven books of poetry; including, most recently, American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press, who is bringing out a new & selected in 2020. He has published poetry in december, The Southern Review, New Letters, Crazyhorse, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle among others.