Motel Row
by Byron Matthews

Check in, never check out!
No laugh's too cheap
for roaches, none
too darkly bought

For any but an eye that looks
out that cabin at the end,
peers through a slit
in humor's shade. 

My father fought unpacific isles,
mustered lucky home intact,
but even so could not evade
a last indecency

Of chance, a stray decree: Go
swaddled into deepening night,
dark slump descend to suckling

Defilement disallowed a pet
who fails her perch, lost his wheel,
foul slow burlesque, exits nailed,
piano falling out of tune,
of dignity, of grace.

Where were the heroes striding
from the seats to cry Enough?
Voices mislaid? Forgot, again,
to bring our pillows? A foot to kick
a plug out of its socket?

In the dead floral air in this
last dim room,
truth clicks like a hammer
pulling back, clear
as vodka shimmered over ice:

I toast the inn at the edge of light,
mini-bar, spa tub, amenities galore,
and reliable, ready, oily bright,
your valet there
in the right-hand drawer.

Byron Matthews left Iowa for graduate school in North Carolina, later gave up a tenured faculty position in Maryland to make furniture for ten years in Santa Fe. He lives now in the mountains east of Albuquerque with his wife, a cellist.

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