By Mark Kraushaar
Feature image: Still Live with Bottles, 1892 by Roderic O’Conor. Photo © Tate. Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported).
Donny Banya does the room repairs or
when he isn’t buzzed he does.
I’m the night clerk.
Alma runs the bar—plus she’s an artist.
Big John, the owner, does the books
and walks around and plans big changes
to the parking lot and ground-floor Men’s.
There’s other staff but tonight
it’s just the three of us, or four including John
who is dozing on the sofa by the magazines,
John who despite the plumbing in Room 21,
despite the mold and the mice, despite the blinking signage
and the boarded side-door, still thinks
he’ll put the Twilite right.
I got it on the cheap, he says. It’s beautiful.
He dozes and the rest of us chat
and Alma says she’ll sweep and clean the lounge herself—
“except I’ll need a hazmat suit.”
We all laugh, John stirs
and, stretching, sits up and lights a cigarette.
It’s already hot in June. And with the A/C on the fritz
and Alma set to quit and paint her nudes and trees full time
it’s as if, beyond the grimy carpets and the dingy stairs
the air itself is greased with disappointment.
Alma says the Twilite makes her sick—
the room keys, the doors and doorjambs,
TVs, counter tops, the complimentary cups—
the whole place is sticky. She says last week
she saw a fly that couldn’t free its feet for take-off
so she slapped it flat beside the guest phone
where it’s stayed three weeks.
Smudge with Reaching Wing, she calls it.
Mark Kraushaar’s work has appeared in AGNI, Ploughshares, Yale Review, and Best American Poetry. His most recent poetry collection is The Uncertainty Principle (published by Waywiser Press) as winner of the Anthony Hecht Prize. His previous collection Falling Brick Kills Local Man was published by University of Wisconsin Press as winner of the Felix Pollak Prize.