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Sitting Shiva in a Hotel Lobby | A Poem by Donal Mahoney

For a year this image has haunted me.
Over and over I hear on the gramophone
Cohen put in my ear
“Feature this:
On a crowded elevator
a strange woman in a baseball cap
unbuttons your fly.”
That image is on the ceiling every night
as I sit shiva in the lobby
of this small hotel,
a hookah, like a tired cobra,
coiled at my feet,
a shamrock in my buttonhole
dead from the last parade.
Night after night,
I think about this strange woman
as each hour I watch
the doors of the elevator
part and give birth.
I observe each new guest carefully,
hoping the woman in the baseball cap
will tire of the rain and ride up
in the elevator and register.
I want her to sit in the lobby
and talk with us.
We who are guests here forever
have eons to hear
what she has to say.
We have paid our rent in advance.
We can afford to sit here and see.

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