John Gentry


Up in the attic in a humpback trunk,
      That I was rummaging through,
I found a ten-cent, paperback novel
      From nineteen thirty-two.

Its dog-eared pages were wrinkled and brown
      And papered with flecks of mold.
So I smoothed them down and brushed them off
      To see what tale they told.

Across the cover ran a black freight train,
      With a billowing head of steam,
Bearing down on a girl, tied fast to the tracks,
      Illumed in the headlight’s beam.

Nearby was a hassock so I pulled it close
      And, there by a chink of light,
I started to read from the first brown page
      The whole of that young girl’s plight.

The story began on a Kansas farm,
      On a dark September morn,
When a twister funneled down from the sky,
      And a blue-eyed lass was born.

Destiny was on her brow,
      And fame was in her breast,
While across the sea three felons met
      In a cellar in Budapest.

And while they plotted, a ship set sail
      From a port in Cameroon
With a bamboo crate lashed to her deck
      That caged a white baboon,

While over the horizon a pontoon plane
      Set down on a hidden lake
On a lonely isle where a cannibal chief
      Was cursed with a bad toothache.

Meanwhile at a table in a back-alley dive,
      In a village on the Caspian Sea,
A fortune was won in a baccarat game
      By a gambler from Tennessee.

Now all of the above, on the very next page,
      (But I won’t tell you how it was done)
Was brought together, and everything fit—
      And that was just Chapter One!

John Gentry     
Ventura, California

John Gentry, 76, of Ventura, California is a retired public school teacher who also served in the U. S. Navy. He is currently an active participant in a local seniors creative writing group, and exhibits a great gift for storytelling in his award-winning narrative poem “Dime Novel.” He has raised five adopted children and has two grandchildren. His astrological sun sign is Taurus.