“Praise of the Cheap Hotel”

I have this friend
who travels with her own pillow

She’d heard the stories
of dust mites and detritis
and the human ash left behind
as we burn our own skin just being alive,
how a black light will reveal the stains
that remain from love affairs and porno films.
I know of another man
who won’t turn a tap off in a public washroom
for fear of contaminating what he’s just cleaned.

Well, I’ve slept in the dirty sheets of others,
laid myself down
in the dust of my ancestors
slept with relatives unmet.

You can’t embrace beauty
until you’ve kissed her ugly sister
and loved her more.

Lay me down,
lay me down
among the bodies of the living and the dead.
even when the bed is dirty and cheap
and the air conditioner
hums Amazing Grace
over and over again.
Lay me down,
lay me down
in the bed of history
so I can sleep with
the secrets of love lost
of love never found
of love that died, or was ruined.

I want to turn on the lights
and watch the cockroaches run for cover.

Let me sleep with construction workers and hookers,
once-rich stockbrokers on the fly from the law,
young women who left home for a new future,
and destitute immigrants from Bombay.
I am home everywhere
especially when I am broke and travelling cheap —
because that is when I am most rich,
sleeping in the dust of my community.

Lay me down, lay me down
among the thousand bodies in the bed.
I am ready
to sleep in the arms of the world.