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Debra Marquart

Do Drop Inn

When they found Steve
in a motel room in Jacksonville,
someone said, they had to break
the chain, throw a shoulder against
the dark splinter of wood, force
the metal rings to give up
the mounted gold clasp.
Someone else said the links
were swinging free and the police
walked into an already open
door. Doesn’t matter except
to know he wasn’t alone
in the end. Jacksonville’s hot
this time of year. Steve would’ve
hated going in a mom and pop
do drop inn with a marquee
flashing eat, sleep, bowl.
Those hands could play
the three-over-four, the slide,
the strut, the syncopation,
like nobody could teach. He
was always going to California,
but first the dirty dance halls,
then the pregnant wife,
after that the fat paychecks
on the cocktail circuit
held him, always in debt,
but on the way out and going
to California shortly thereafter.
When I met him, I had a habit
of quitting smoking for twenty
minutes, and he would vow
to leave his wife. In that room
where they found him,
I imagine a woman slip
out from under and collect
her clothes. She slides
the chain free and runs down
down the hallway, falling apart
as she runs, falling apart as she runs
away from Steve and the way
he knew how to play.


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