Leo’s Bar ‘Round Midnightby Tobi Alfier
Used to be a brothel, so they say.
Used to be haunted, they say that too.
Upstairs still rents by the hour,
some county ordinance, never been reversed.
Works fine for me, I just need a few hours
of shuteye, then back on the road west.
The rooms have names, not numbers.
I stay in “Carmen”. Her Puta Doll
sits up top of the dresser, a bit
of nostalgia found nowhere but in this here room,
faded roses on the wall from floor to ceiling,
movie-star mirror over the claw-foot tub,
hand-held nozzle for the lady-places.
I need to lie down on the velvet coverlet,
dream the ghost, then get to the sea,
diner coffee and a compass to guide me.
I love the desert distances, wind
like muted fury down the cracks and canyons,
sparse population of daylight hermits,
arms built for the mines, sleeping off
the night before in double-wides
and houses with green rocks for grass—
not an art gallery in sight. These are the towns
I crave, but now I need me some ocean. Waves black
and roaring, the smell that marks a territory
of wildness I miss like a tree trunk misses an ax.
The sounds, the birds. Damp fog shrouds
a mangled old pier while dark storms of a late
forecast plow sand into water. The horizon teases
like a far off place, well worth the hard math
of too many miles on unfamiliar roads. Maybe I shoulda
danced a few more at Leo’s, sized up my competition
a little bit extra, my options more careful-like,
enjoyed Carmen’s blowsy room for another hour or two,
but the road was calling. Pass me some color on the way
to the whitecaps and call me one happy woman, mesmerized
by the sunburnt road, following the thin migration
of Painted Ladies to my second home, the briny tide.
* * * * *
"Leo’s Bar ‘Round Midnight" was previously published in Gargoyle (#73, 2021) and is part of Tobi Alfier's poetry collection Symmetry: earth and sky (Main Street Rag, 2020).
Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies was published by Cholla Needles Press. Symmetry: earth and sky was published by Main Street Rag. Her latest collection Grit & Grace was published by The Orchard Street Press in 2021. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).