At the Padre Hotel in Bakersfield, California
It’s Saturday night and all the heterosexuals
in smart little dresses and sport coats
are streaming into what we didn’t know
was the hottest spot between Las Vegas and L.A.
Janet and I are in jeans and fleece—not a tube of lipstick
or mascara wand between us. Grayheads:
a species easy to identify without a guidebook—
the over-the-hill lesbian couples of the Pacific Northwest.
Janet’s carrying our red-and-white cooler with snacks for the road
across the marble tiles of the Art Deco lobby
when we turn and see the couple
entering through the tall glass doors, slicing
through the crowd like a whetted blade. The butch
is ordinary enough, a stocky white woman
in tailored shirt and slacks, but the confection—
no, the pièce de résistance—whose hand she holds
is of another genus entirely.
Her cinnamon sheen, her gold dress
zipped tighter than the skin of a snake.
And her deep décolletage, exposed enough for open-heart surgery.
She’s a yacht in a sea of rowboats.
An Italian fountain by Bernini.
She’s the Statue of Liberty. The Hubble Telescope
that lets us gaze into the birth of galaxies.
Oh, may they set that hotel room ablaze—here
in this drab land of agribusiness and oil refineries
outdoing Pittsburgh as the top polluted city in the nation—trash it
like rock stars, rip up the 300 thread-count sheets,
free the feathers from the pillows.
And may that grande femme be consumed
right down to the glitter on her sling-back four-inch stilettos
and whatever she’s glued on her magnificent skin
to keep the plunge of that neckline from careening clear off the curve.
From Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Ellen Bass. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.
Ellen Bass is the author of Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). She currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 2014-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/padre-hotel-bakersfield-california