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Finger Snapping Peggy Lee

She was one of his favorites,

my hillbilly father, who built his
own component home stereo system

after U.S. Army electronics school. Korea.
Once, he drove us—my mother and me, him—
to Columbus to see the Capitol Christmas tree.

Back then, there was a revolving watchmaker’s
sign that reiterated ROY’S near Broad & High.
I remember the signage. On the Caddy’s radio,

Peggy Lee snapped her fingers, crisp-sounding,
a chiffon-gowned, platinum-blond hair Peggy
Lee who I had seen surrounded by dancers

who choreograph waiting a turn in her line
of male lovers. It’s 1958, and her hit “Fever”
is on the pop charts. The Eisenhower Years.

Soon, the Freedom Riders will be beaten. But
this is that storybook-America: an Ohio where
White Privilege comes down to Bing Crosby

and pedestrian traffic punctuated by police,
the police in dress-blues nodding to the kids,
kids giddy-grinning as only a child can while

a white-neon, rotating sign beams ROY and
(again) ROY and snowfall cosigns December
municipal streets of buses and diesel fumes.

Roy Bentley is the author of Walking with Eve in the Loved City, chosen by Billy Collins as finalist for the Miller Williams poetry prize; Starlight Taxi, winner of the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize; The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana, chosen by John Gallaher as winner of the White Pine Poetry Prize; as well as My Mother’s Red Ford: New & Selected Poems 1986 – 2020 published by Lost Horse Press. Poems have appeared in North American Review, december, Crazyhorse, The Southern Review, Rattle, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner among others. His latest is Beautiful Plenty (Main Street Rag, 2021).

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