Poetry / February 2010 (Issue 10)


Hunchback Rat of the Red Star Hotel

by Marc Vincenz

Red Star Hotel, Kunlun, 1994 

Rattled into the hotel room at three past one 
Clunking: veteran sailor on one good leg. 

Oh for the wave and break, the ten-past-one spins, 
Fifteen-past draw of squall and flit,
Flit of tired moonlit eyes.  And sometime, 
When at last sun is inhaling, oxygenated in pink,

All, all is still, is still, is still, no land, 
No land in sight, just wind, wind and sighs.

Yet peace, as any good sailor will grumble, 
Peace is never a long tall elegant thing, 

War, war, on the other boot, is always reappearing, 
A grimy old fart, who never shaves too close, 
Stumbles, and always, always turns up late, 
For the very last beer on the very last boat.

And that dawn you could smell it, ionized,
War it was—and not with sea, no she, 

She was clearly content sipping early wave, but war, 
War hissed and cursed and hurled and burped,

Snarling from the plastic palm behind the telephone, 
Swinging from the curtain like Tarzan 
All along the bedroom rafters 
Even when CNN was breaking on the news.

It was my apple—little round red thing 
With sincere compliments from the General Manager,

Once cousin to a solitary banana, plated, now peeled.
Oh how he desired that waxy bit of fruit.

And he stalked me down with those jellybean eyes,
Hunchbacked Quasimodo rat, his long tail clunking
Whip-like and the grim delight of his two front teeth 
Sneering ready to fight tooth and tear for apple.

All I had to fight back was a towel and a shoe.
At half-past five I surrendered.

 
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