Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Mouse Palace Motel


“I work all day, and get 
half-drunk at night.”
—Philip Larkin, Aubade

They gave up on me a long time ago—
I’m the shambling Mouse Motel Wreck

Out there on East Sixth & Union—
My heyday was way back then in 1949

Now I wake at four to soundless dark—
I stare at the curtain-edges growing light
Till then I see what’s really always there—
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now
Making all thought impossible but how—
And where and when I shall myself die

Arid interrogations, the dread of dying—
and being dead, flashes afresh to horrify

The mind blanks at the glare of day—
In remorse, good not done, love not given
Torn off unused wretchedly because—
Only life can take so long to kick the bucket

All the wrong beginnings that never end—
next the total emptiness lasting forever

The sure extinction that we travel to—
The Mouse Motel out there on Sixth Avenue

Shall we be always lost, not to be here—
Not to be there, not to be anywhere?

This is a special kind of being afraid—
No trick dispels the Mouse Motel Miasma

Religion used to try, its vast moth-eaten—
Musical brocade created to just pretend

Nor the stately, elegant Plumb Mansion—
With the Grand Army of the Republic ladies

Pounding away at the piano and singing—

Now a nice home for young unwed mothers—
Displaced by the great Athens of the Midwest

At least the Plumb Mansion has a future—
Illegitimate life is certainly better than none

But look at me poor destitute Mouse Motel—
All I have left is my vagrant Hwy 50 memories

We never die, it’s specious stuff that says no—
Only decaying mansions know the awful truth

Rational beings fear a thing it cannot see—
Not seeing that this is what we all fear so

No sight, no sound, no touch, taste or smell—
nothing to think with, nothing to love with

The Anesthetic from which none come round—
And so it stays just on the edge of our vision
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill—
That slows each impulse down to indecision
Most things may never happen, this one will—
And realization of it stages all our fears

We’re caught without People or Drink—
Courage is no good, screaming doesn’t help

It means not scaring others even though—
Some are heard crying out as lost ghosts

Being brave lets no one off the hook—
Death’s indifferent to whining and kvetching

Slowly light strengthens, the room takes—  
Shape plain as a Motel Vacancy Sign

What do I know about anything really—
I’ve always known only that I can’t escape
I accept being a rundown old Mansion—
The Mouse Motel here by Sixth Avenue

Someday I’ll just simply have to go—
People in Emporia downtown won’t care

The Emporia world begins to forget—
The Kansas sky turns pale white as clay

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