Vacancy: A Poem

They’re the failing letters
of the dull neon sign
outside the motel
on the state road
that lost relevance
when the interstate
pushed through
a few years back,
taking traffic
a couple miles west
with it
and sprouting
a Motel 6,
Econolodge
and casino
by its banks.

The pool’s been filled in
and the road
doesn’t even rate
a scenic route
on the way
to grandma’s anymore.

Even the gas station’s
pulled up pumps,
reinventing itself
a One Stop Travel Shop
with six packs, Subway and
Krispy Kremes delivered daily,
next to the Cracker Barrel,
next to the Days Inn,
that’s next to
their freshly etched
six-lane
river of life.

Minivanned families
who,
after getting gas,
miss the interstate’s entrance
and find this
the first late night light
won¹t dare to stop;

They flee,
spitting up
the parking lot’s gravel of
busted gin bottles,
cigarette butts,
crushed beer cans and
spent condoms,
though the theme park’s still
a good day’s drive,
the kids are cranky
and dad’s eyelids
are way past
half mast.

They can hear
the spasms of the N
and the top half of the second
C of the VACANCY sign’s
intermittent buzz
against the distant traffic¹s roar
as they vainly try to light,
occasionally flaring disturbingly,
like my thoughts,
before the first good jolt
of caffeine
kicks in.

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