“A HISTORY OF WHORES”
I got a twenty nine dollar and ninety eight cent room last night.
I was hoping to get some writing accomplished,
but everywhere I looked in there, the stories
had already been written.
Invisible ink on the bed spread, for instance.
Most guests wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t care—
but I wore on my head
magic glasses I bought from the joke shop down the street.
I saw everything that ever went on in room 16.
A history of whores;
Dribbling down, lit up, on the pleated yellow lampshade.
Everything stank of oysters, vanilla extract, cherry cough syrup,
and yes, bleach.
The army green carpet was covered in crumbs of saltines,
only nobody had eaten crackers in here, for at least a decade.
The alarm clock, no matter how hard I tried,
wouldn’t stop flashing red zeros in the window.
And that brings me to the lipstick in the medicine cabinet.
There I saw the smudges of what must be
every shade of red
that could ever be so appealing in this dull of light.
I slid the closet door back and let loose all the ghosts,
huddling over the big black stain—
directly beneath where I hung
The stories written here were good, I thought. Real.
I flipped open the Gideon to Genesis 19.
The saltines had made me think that maybe
a guest here
had crumbled from pillars of salt or saltines.
Sure enough, those pages were trafficked heavily—
by men as much as women. Each guest
seemed to relate in one way or another—
to Lot, Lot’s wife, or one of his two young daughters.
On one page, I found in the margins—
phone number after phone number—
crossed out— replaced by bigger-and-bigger numbers.
Shelly— she was the last one.
She dated her entry yesterday.
I picked up the big black telephone. The receiver
of dirty hotdog water, thawed in a sink.
I rested the telephone head on the bed,
smothering it with a pillow— leaving it off the hook.
The muffled scream of the operator comforted me
I got up and went to the door, to lock myself in.
There were holes in the wall, tiny sets of screw holes—
where the chain hook had been kicked out.
A jealous John, I thought. He probably fell in love.
I couldn’t blame him. This room, unlike any women I’d met,
was real and ready, came written for me. No work to do here.
Twenty nine dollars and ninety eight cents; a bargain.
The price is a little strange, sure—
But I guess the management wants to make sure guests here
have two copper pennies for their eyelids,
in case Shelly gets out of hand.