The first girl I spent time with scared me and left me
breathless. Let me set the scene: we're on the couch in
her living room and both her parents are in the kitchen.
They’re three quick-time steps away from where we are.
Her folks have let it slip that quiet is what they listen for.
We take turns razor-wiring the distance with bland patter.
You could say we are talking loud. She’s got her Levis
down to her knees. All right, her ankles. Her directive:
If I tell you to stop, Roy—you stop. The red stitching
of her J.C. Penney bikini briefs shouts Strawberries.
Oh—this is my first relationship, though the word
relationship isn’t the one I’d use. Maybe heaven
but only if somewhere the holiness of the body
is a given. I’m not thinking in words for once,
and I know what we’re doing is more thrilling
than jacking off any day or looking at Playboy
or watching a favorite cheerleader do the splits.
“What about this?” I ask her. And she whispers,
Stop and I swear I’ll never speak to you again!
For those in the kitchen she is saying something
about strawberries in their yard. Sparkling. Ripe.
Her breathing changes and she wants me to talk.
I like the theme of the strawberries. I take over:
"They’re juicy. Brightest reds I have ever seen..."
It is more important to describe any sort of love
inexactly than to just keep quiet, don’t you think.
Descriptions of adoration are what we have after
in ranch-house air we may have filled with voices
as we sat shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh,
the sparkling ask of our hands not yet gone still.
Roy Bentley is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, and fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the Ohio Arts Council. Books include Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog, 1992), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine, 2006), Starlight Taxi (Lynx House, 2013); as well as Walking with Eve in the Loved City, a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize selected by Billy Collins, which has just been published by the University of Arkansas Press.