Rundown Motel

In the Arms of Her John

Embraced by the bright sun
of the frigid winter afternoon
the dark asphalt shingles
on the roof of the cheap motel
warm up like a hooker
desperately intent on pretending
to find joy in the arms of her john.

The light dusting of snow
evaporates in spinning, spiraling swirls
of chilly winter steam
that meander across the surface,
eddies and whirlpools of mist
writhe hopelessly over the hostel’s canopy
as if sympathetic to the turmoil of emotions
from the guests below.

The vagrants, the junkies, the bitter refugees
of an economy turned hostile
hoping to hustle another night’s shelter.
Maybe the old Catholic priest will
have forgotten they’ve been there before
or racked with guilt might foot another day’s bill.
The Episcopalian is jaded and weary;
he’s onto their scam and can’t be convinced.
The Baptist’s an optimist — he thinks they’ve converted;
those long-ago memorized Sunday School
prayers finally paying off.

The Methodists moved out of town;
they’re no help now. And the Lutherans!
The Lutherans offered them a job!
A job? I don’t need a job, pastor; I’m just passin’ through
I just need a room for the night. See
my mother is gravely ill in Chicago, maybe
she’s dyin’ and I need some gas and a place to stay.
It’s just a cheap motel, can you spare enough
for one night in a cheap motel?

A cheap motel with an asphalt shingle roof,
and hopeless, forlorn ghosts of evaporating
snow dust steam swirling in desperate agony
over the hostel’s lonely canopy,
like a hooker pretending she likes to dance
in the arms of her john.

(By C. Eric Funston)