ONCE IN A WICHITA HOTEL

The following is poem number 10 of 2009’s NaPoWriMo – 30 poems in 30 days during the month of April. The original prompt was, “laughing buddha”. Like poem number 9 (CHICAGO), it’s quite a deviation. In the original draft, which took a while to come to light, the little girl was carrying a stone buddha. It made more sense to give her a doll.

ONCE IN A WICHITA HOTEL

I saw a little girl walking along railroad tracks
carrying a baby doll while a three-legged dog
hopped nearby. I wanted to yank the window up,
say something, Good morning, ask how the dog
lost its leg, anything, but figured she’d think
I was crazy. What kind of person yells
to little girls from a hotel window but a madman
running from life? Surely someone has told her
to beware of men like me. And to think
the only reason I was awake was because
a train ran past the hotel on those same tracks
every other hour all night – just when
my rhythms were almost in sync
a new locomotive blew past like a ghost,
until I gave up on sleep all together, made a pot
of coffee from a bag left in the wicker bowl
on the empty dresser and decided to wait
for the next train to go by, so I could yank up
the window and yell at it – but what kind of madman
yells into a wheat-colored sunrise
at a train that can’t hear you and wouldn’t care
if it did? I decided at least I should call out to the girl
to watch for the train which was sure to pass
any moment – that’s when I discovered
the window was painted shut, probably to keep
men like me from doing anything but thinking
about what we’d say if we could.

-

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