- Black Radio
It was a Zenith Trans-Oceanic, with rows of red-orange push buttons and serial black tuning knobs that said the path to Wonder commenced with a frequency indicator floating like the bubble in a carpenter’s level. My father listened to WSM, the Grand Ole Opry, on Saturday nights, drifting to sleep to Hank Snow or Roy Acuff or a bluegrass band he could tell you the history of. Sleepwear consisted of a t-shirt and J.C. Penney pajama bottoms. When he and my mother yet slept together, she would be awake be on her side of the bed— propped up and reading, an L & M burning in a crystal ashtray. Telling him Turn it down! until the singer’s voice was a whisper. Whatever happens when we die, suffering will have to be explained. Maybe God will pass out the Trans-Oceanics, and the dead will huddle around the nearest set, listening to Heaven’s version of a fireside chat. Maybe she’ll find him—my father—and they’ll argue about the volume. Despite all the hoakum I like to think there’s more than breathlessness and the tumult reduced to sleep in a dark so total you’d want a radio. I like to think we’d have hands to tune the notched knobs. Eyes to judge where the Nashville station is clearest and the voices of hearts absolve us [End Page 116] and death is a song we automatically sing, knowing nearly all the words. Maybe we’re dead and the trespass of living rises like so much smoke. [End Page 117]
Roy Bentley has published nine chapbooks and three books of poetry, including The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana and Starlight Taxi. His poems have appeared in the Southern Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Sou’wester, American Literary Review, and elsewhere. He has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council.