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In a Hotel

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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)

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

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In a Hotel

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