the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Barry Wallenstein

At the Surprise Hotel

             —narrated by a member of the hotel staff
             who'd rather remain anonymous


No one is bruised on Sundays
at the Surprise Hotel
nor is any one citizen blessed
on purpose; but come Monday
the card players bust up the place
flipping their wigs
sending their cards in the air:
the kings queens jacks aces all
sailing off and then to fall
proving gravity a fine thing
all the way to Tuesday
at the Surprise Hotel.


She dashed in — the darling of the place,
and her cousin came too,
a sparkly old bird named Mona,
vernal, unbeaten, un-trodden, fresh as paint,
and the songwriters, the revelers, the men
who fix the pipes, all collapsed in love.

Lately, on blue days, they call out her name,
Mona, and the sound of it, the flush implied,
lifts their cloaks of blue and suddenly
she's as violet vibrant as her cousin,
the unknown, the stick figure,
the darling of the place.


A lout walked in
pressed a button
no one came
he raved at the inattention
calmed himself down
pressed again —
no one again
the rave became a rant
against the hotel staff
standing about — ears stopped
and their cold looks set
and ready for his kind.


At cocktail time one summer night
with the light lasting and the temperature
cooling and the moon too
in a cooperative state,
a group of regulars
with time in their hands
and dinner not quite near
began quarreling out loud.

Why? A couple — the man tall and sleek
and the woman tall also and sleek
and dressed in black with dark lips
sashayed into the lobby. Soundlessly.
One gent said — look at those two whores
and another laughed and another grumbled
about manners and such language and
yet another was stone still as if star struck
and shouted out loud
"how you fools sitting there
didn't even see what's passed,
and with those two out of sight now
what to do 'till dinner?"


Stepping into the coolness of the hotel,
from a side door rarely used
except for deliveries or cops in tweeds,
was a woman who —
in the language of lurid fiction —
wore less than scant above the beltline,
a silver string circling a golden tan.

Her hair was a cascade of golden tresses.
As she made her way towards the lobby,
the denizens of the place took notice,

A lucky punch it could be — the famous
hotel surprise —
for one bold citizen deserving
a sweet story,
one that spins along past dark.



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