Beth Bentley

Short Trip Back


I wanted to place my foot
once more on the burning sidewalk,
stalled in a Minnesota August,
thinned, pocked and feverish
with adolescence, my disease.
I wanted to suffer those years
when I pottered around the neighborhood,
a homesick explorer held captive
by the natives, worshipped
in outlandish ceremonies, kept celibate,
my untranslatable messages
smuggled out from the interior
by birds; held so long I became
like my captors, simple-minded,
chained to the wheel of food and sleep.

I was so far from my own country
I thought I had made it up:
a temperate place
where even the speech was liquid,
where one’s body was a blessing,
where I could put on thought
like a skin and become whole.


Beth Bentley has taught in the Northwest and elsewhere for over thirty years. Her poetry has been widely published in journals and anthologies, including The Gettysburg Review, the Atlantic, the Nation, the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Poetry, and the Sewanee Review. Bentley’s poetry collections include Little Fires (Cune Press, 1998), The Purely Visible (SeaPen Press, 1980), Philosophical Investigations (SeaPen Press, 1977), Country of Resemblances (Ohio University Press, 1976), Field of Snow (Gemini Press, 1973), and Phone Calls From the Dead (Ohio University Press, 1972). She has been living in Seattle since 1952.