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Roy Bentley
POETRY
 
Black Box

My father brought his version down from the attic,
slipped in a pair of D-cell Ray-O-Vac batteries
and rested the device on a tabletop.  He stepped
back and threw a toggle switch, saying, “Watch”
as a green arm-and-hand slid from hinged dark
to filch an unprepossessing nickel and disappear.

In social science the term ‘black box’
refers to the unknowable mind of another,
and there’s the flight recorder for airplanes.
In a November sky tonight it’s a hand-across-
the-moon total lunar eclipse that summons
my father’s circus miracle.  I hear the built-to-

survive-the-worst-case signaling of memory—  
it’s hard to say even who left behind that other,
the attic box, though we did rent our Dayton house
to the Brothers Four, a group of folk singers,
who ran up sizable long-distances bills, bartering
a pearl-inlaid Gibson banjo to get back a deposit.

That box, the one-trick keepsake, calls to mind
a closure of the sort indicative of graves.  As usual,
death is everywhere: in a novelty bank, the hand’s
cadaverous grasping—in an eclipse’s mouth-agape
show: the left-to-right occlusion of moonglow
palmed in the manner of magicians.  I prefer

to track the deft handiwork of Creation in sunrises,
a depositing of diurnal and small flowerings, ditches
of grasses, the bright shifting edges of lustrous shapes
defined as a line of mailboxes ensnared by trailing vines.
I’d have you see each leaf, cupped by frost, as housing
the hour it snatches, the air’s latest offered-up nickel.

 


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