Where Do You Go from Tonopah?

Because the Mizpah Hotel has claw foot tubs,
this is where you stop. This place has its own
ghost, a good story about The Lady in Red.
It’s said she was murdered here, discovered
by her husband in the arms of her young love.
She’d have lived to wear her lace and heels
if it hadn't been for the train being late,
her husband missing his connection, stopping
in for a cold drink, seeing her, seeing him
ascend the steep stairs. In Nevada,
it’s always about trains, drinks, connections
missed and made and wholly imagined.

Because, you’re told, Tonopah is for those
with a thirst for adventure, you venture
into the Long Shot Bar, order steaks,
a fine red wine and, arguably, the best
margarita between Reno and Las Vegas,
listen to some old man chat up the young
couple from Henderson who say this is
the farthest north they’ve been, exploring
their new state, transplants from Atlanta.
The old man says this is the real Nevada,
but suggests they also make Elko, Winnemucca,
decent towns he’s fond of, would live in, given...

And because you love books and the beauty
of dust, you’ll spend hours wandering
the dense aisles of Whitney’s Bookshelf,
where paperbacks are a dollar hardbacks, two.
What you’ll take home is a first edition,
hardback, John Gardner's On Moral Fiction.
Inside is a personal inscription, June 1978.
Bob, it says, keep writing in NYC. Thanks
for all your help these two years in Tonopah.
Best of luck. I’ll miss you here. Love Jack.

Copyright © 2020 by Gailmarie Pahmeier. Of Bone, Of Ash, Of Ordinary Saints: A Nevada Gospel (WSC Press, 2020). Used with the permission of the poet.