Art and poetry on page and stage

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Barry Wallenstein

Three from At the Surprise Hotel

In the Lizard Lounge
the leather-cushioned booths
hold three across — four tightly.
There the loafers, the juice friends,
and twilight runners,
sometimes sit and
try to improve their chatter.
The sucker punch senders,
the pratfall entertainers
the off-season aerial acts
all wait around as if in heaven
talking and listening to the music
in the lounge just off the lobby.

This particular drop-by, part-time resident,
dressed for luxury, is for certain
one of the party of oddballs.
He’s a glad hand with gravel,
tight fisted with gold.

Nelly says, it’s lucky for the staff
his stays are short and occasional.
When he does come back each time,
it’s to room number two
and the curtains stay drawn.

He’s tried in his slick way twice
to fool with Nelly
who bell-hops part time
and is often seen behind the bar
being playful — but she says scat.

Yes, he’s tight fisted with the gold;
silver stays home with the cat.

Nelly says,
“if he didn’t stink sometimes,
you wouldn’t know he’s around.”

She speaks of the guest in 508 —
never late for breakfast
never speaks
always tucks his napkin
neatly under his chin,
and when he stands after the meal,
his re-sets the table.

He tiptoes towards his room silently,
with the face of an abstract, slowly
over the rug as if measuring it —
well-dressed but radiating
a most peculiar odor.

“Still, there’s worse in this world
than funk,” Nelly says with a smile,
and it’s known she prefers her woe
in thimble-sized glasses.

Barry Wallenstein lives in New York City. His poems first appeared in 1964 and since then he has published nine collections, the most recent being At the Surprise Hotel (Ridgeway Press, 2016). In the early 1970's, collaborating with jazz artists in performing and recording his poetry, he established long term relationships with renowned jazz artists. He continues to perform with musicians internationally.