Short Stay at Lake George
We stand in the doorway,
breath catching at the ugliness
of a space as mean-spirited
as the landlord who offered us
the key and a first look, only
after his steely-eyed wife
pocketed our check.
The odor of old dust mixes
with too much disinfectant,
smothering us in a wave
of "clean" we don't believe.
All welcome seems forgotten,
likely scrubbed out of every corner
of this vacation paradise—
misshapen pillows, butt-sprung chairs,
lopsided tables, bent metal hooks—
the quasi-closet, we guess.
We leave the room, pull the door
firmly behind us, pondering
whether used-upness might be contagious.
"I'm too tired to go anywhere."
Folded over on herself,
shoulders weighted with the heft
of too many other lives, her words
as lifeless as her body,
her denial is spoken firmly.
"It costs too much to travel—
I don't spend money on myself."
One hand reaches for her tea cup,
the other forms a fist, as if
ready to pound the table for emphasis.
Instead she shakes her head "no."
She spurns any other comments.
Her eyes snap with anger,
then fill with quick tears.
"What would I do? Where would I go?
I've always stayed right here.
I'm too old now, too alone to leave."
—Lou Roach, Poynette, WI