Roy Bentley

What to Do with Dead Angels

That was one of the few times they became alarmed,

for they thought he was going to die and not even

the wise neighbor woman had been able to tell them

what to do with dead angels.

—Gabriel Garcia Márquez, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”



I like to think that someday I’ll sit down

with my dear dead and get a chance to hear


their stories. Lotused around some fountain,

not necessarily American Standard but solidly


built and tasteful. Maybe I’d get to ask them,

my dead, where it went wrong. Life. Where it


took flight like James Dean’s Porsche Spyder.

The silver 550 Porsche Spyder. I’m reading


a biography that says Dean’s first TV role

was John the Apostle: “Was it for this, then,


that we left our nets to follow the Master?”

I’m reminded of Márquez’ derelict angel


in a coop constructed of hundreds of wire-

mesh pentagonal shapes. Dean’s biographer 


says that James Byron Dean produced a cry

as he was being lifted. Dean had been driving 


like he had a death wish any stretch of gypsy-

angel road in nineteen fifty-five could answer.


The death-cry may have been Dean finding out.

That, or maybe last breath has to go somewhere.


Roy Bentley, a finalist for the Miller Williams prize for Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has published 8 books; including American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press, who just published a new & selected: My Mother’s Red Ford. He is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA, and fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Banyan Review, The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Rattle and Shenandoah among others. Hillbilly Guilt, his latest collection, won the 2019 Hidden River Arts / Willow Run Poetry Book Award and should be out in 2021.