the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Barry Wallenstein

from At the Surprise Hotel

— narrated by a member of the hotel staff
who'd rather remain anonymous

Adam, tall, buff and tender of the bar,
wipes dry the circles
from the polished wood
after the Rascal, as he's called,
stood up, glass in hand
and tumbled off the rail,
in this last half hour of twilight
at the Surprise Hotel.

As light leaves, he stumbles
into an unseen and tricky present tense;
where the brass rail is bad memory
and the un-trusted messenger's fallen off his bike.
Rascal's here; the proof is in his silence
and his droppings.

See the moon-glow change the shapes
across the west wall of room 305
occupied this night —
by a traveler weary from the road.
He smokes his last cigarette,
opens the window to clear the air.
He, call him Tommy, looks out over the parking lot
and dreams; he closes the window
on an updraft of conversation he's no part of.
In fact, he imagines himself no part
of any conversation anywhere.

In the Lizard Lounge
the leather-cushioned booths
hold three across — four tightly.
There the loafers, the juice friends,
the twilight runners, sit sometimes and
try to improve their chatter.
The sucker punch senders,
the pratfall entertainers
the off-season areal acts
all wait around as if in heaven
talking and listening to the music
in the lounge just off the lobby.

This drop-by, part-time resident,
dressed for luxury, is for certain
one of the party of the strange.
He's a glad hand with gravel,
tight fisted with gold.

Nelly says, it's lucky for the staff
his stays are short — and occasional.
When he does come back each time,
it's to room number two
and the curtains stay drawn.

He's tried in his slick way twice
to fool with Nelly
who bell-hops part time
and is often seen behind the bar
being playful — but she says scat.

Yes, he's a glad hand with the gravel
tight fisted with gold;
silver stays home with the cat.



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