In a Hotel
By David Caplan
In a hotel, even prayer feels adulterous,
the skyline smudged in light, a distraction
just before dusk. In the lobby
a woman tells a stranger what she will do
for three hundred dollars, what
she will do for four. Some have the custom
of opening a book randomly with a question in mind.
Some have the custom of forgetting.
At six my friend beat his father at chess,
beat his father’s friends so easily
he wondered if they tried.
At seven he shook the governor’s hand.
Don’t call it a failure; call it knowledge:
the peculiar taste that filled his mouth
as if he had bitten his cheek.
Whatever he risked did not matter, whatever
he could imagine was already lost.
Bored, the other boy coughed into his hands.
Source: Poetry (May 2013)