Butch Thompson Sings “With a Little Help from My Friends”

roy bentley

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.