Allison Pitinii Davis is the author of Line Study of a Motel Clerk (Baobab Press, 2017), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award’s Berru Award for Poetry and the Ohioana Book Award, and Poppy Seeds (Kent State University Press, 2013), winner of the Wick Poetry Chapbook Prize. She holds fellowships from Stanford University’s Wallace Stegner program, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Severinghaus Beck Fund for Study at Vilnius Yiddish Institute. Her poetry has appeared in Best American Poetry 2016, The New Republic, Crazyhorse, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. She is a PhD student at the University of Tennessee.
THE MOTEL CLERK’S SON DRIVES OUT TO CHECK ON BUSINESS, 1977
By Allison Pitinii DavisAdded: Thursday, October 27, 2016 / Used with permission. Photo by Ian Lanzillotti.
Before him, stickers fade across the bumper:
LAST ONE OUT OF TOWN, TURN OFF THE LIGHTS.
The last employer in Youngstown is the weather:
the truck behind him plows grey snow to the roadside
while another truck lays salt. Over and over, the radio says:
"Prevent fuel-line freeze up! You go or Sohio pays the tow."
The radio signal spans the city
now bisected by 680, runs from the West Side
widows prescribed shock treatment
after their husbands fell dead
on the lines to the East Side workers
who trained their white bosses then got the slip.
He pulls into the motel lot. Business is dead:
inside the office, he stares into the weather
hitting the window. A wrecking ball crashed
through the Sohio station across the street.
He says, "That's what you get for opening your mouth"
when it smiles back without its teeth.