Aubade for the Habana Inn

Before adolescence reached me, each morning 
I marveled past the Habana Inn, a degenerate haven 
hidden plainly off Route 66. My cheeks clenched 
as I caught in the rearview oblique glimpses 
of men, their beards groomed to signal discretion. 
39th and Penn: a revolving sleuth of leathered pickups, 
hot rods in cruise control. I numbered plates 
skipping town from out-of-state 
as we got groceries at what was Homeland, 
which once was Safeway, but now is Goodwill. 
Braum’s banana split as alibi, I tracked the bears 
shuffling by. I swooned, swore I’d gussy up, 
brave mountaintops when I came of age, 
embrace my guts. Daddies and sissies alike 
pilgrimage toward the obvious: The Village. 
Boystown. P-town. WeHo. Any Christopher Street. 
I exhausted every imaginable vulgarity stewing beyond the block: 
cowboys, truckers, pastors, oh my. Had I snuck a peek, 
unveiled the skirt, I’d find naught but night: damp 
technicolor carpets, hot tub swimmers, drapes 
finished raw, ultraviolet ripe for new owners 
—an LA lift to keep the grit, strip the must, 
and redevelop. No longer is the Habana. I mourn 
each time a classic logo debuts a thin sans-serif makeover—
the pylon sunrise marking the resort, now absent 
from the I-44 skyline. Maybe it’s better 
to clean up, chlorinate the pool more regular. 
I wouldn’t know. I’m still blue in the face, 
staring out the dash, yearning for first light, 
ignorant of what I lost without ever coming in.

Copyright © 2024 by Chrysanthemum. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 4, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.