Roy Bentley, "Rimbaud Dying"




Most days, she pins an orchid into her black hair.

Extravagant petal-crests of white and a dark trough.

Tonight, no orchid, she leans over the man in the bed

hoping he may linger and she can again collect wages,

fill a draw-stringed bag with gems. Each stone an ocean 

of sharp starlight and an East Africa of terrible suffering.

Her small, thin hand in his remains a kindness. Mercy.


Again she offers a thin rawhide to soften his screams. 

Places the strap in his mouth. It’s his season in hell— 

nursed by an inamorata smelling of patchouli. Proof 

that comfort, unlike forgiveness, can be conscripted.

Outside, no stars. No tolling bells on midnight streets.

Only the annoying buzz of a fly that will see tomorrow.

She curses at the fly in French as a pain-cry subsides


into a string of Bedouin oaths. When he’s gone, fallen 

back, she traces the Braille of bite marks in the leather.

The fly loots a flesh-crumb nesting in the bedclothes.

Her eyes fix on the amputation-to-the-knee as elegy.

She knows nothing of Verlaine, the trouble in Paris. 

Fluent in French, she recalls the last hours and his

mad ramblings and wishes she’d worn the flower.



Roy Bentley's poetry appears in North American Review, Southern Review, Blackbird, Pleiades, Sou’wester, Louisville Review, Guernica and elsewhere. He has won fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Bentley is the author of four books: Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama Press), Any One Man, (Bottom Dog Books), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), and Starlight Taxi, which received the 2012 Blue Lynx Prize in Poetry and was published by Lynx House.