Ferret in a Brothel
I was a gift from Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
after he was elected President of the United States.
The piano player with a glass eye took charge of me
and a Colt pistol that once belonged to Wyatt Earp,
the lawman-friend of Mr. Roosevelt who frequented
Madam Satterfield’s. My first home was a hatbox.
The whores passed me around until I bit one—
she’d fallen asleep in my nest of sheets. Rolled
over, and so it was wake the sleeper or suffocate.
A tolerance for being gently handled went the way
of dying, dark-skinned men: out the door. Gone.
A war and then my house of women scattered
by fire, fingers of flame creeping up the skirts
of the drapes like the hands of johns. The shrieks
of trick babies trapped upstairs—desiccated bodies
black and smooth as fur in the keeping of the men
who carried them down into the street. I escaped
that and the thud of engines, the crying woman
swaddled in a sheet on a bright avenue. I was
off into the grasses then into light again. It’s hard
being a ferret, but not as hard as being a whore
or the President of the United States.
Roy Bentley, finalist for the Miller Williams prize for his book Walking with Eve in the Loved City, is the author of seven books of poetry, including, most recently, American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press. He has published poetry in Shenandoah, Blackbird, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Tar River Poetry, and Rattle, among others.