by Alan Jenkins
Read by John Graves
(The Flea’s Retort)
It must have been their first time—first shared bed,
A hotel off 42nd Street, so sleazy
It had seen stuff that made cockroaches queasy
And even the rats had learned to give head.
But these two were so young, so innocent,
They thought the footsteps that came and went
All night in the corridor, with whispers, meant
Someone was sick, or dead; and so they hid
Their guilty fears by doing what they did,
Three times, then fell asleep. That’s when I fed.
Not the kind of place you lie around
And wait for room service in the morning,
Rich on coffee smells. As day was dawning
They scratched their itch again; untangled, found
They were soon scratching at a different one
And this time the scratching was no fun—
In the struggle for survival, I had won
A little victory . . . Inflamed in parts
They’d barely known, with murder in their hearts
They hunted me; but I had gone to ground.
If words could kill me, I would not be here
To tell the tale—they raged, they spat blood libels
On my kind, they hurled their Gideon’s Bibles
At specks their maddened vision made appear
On sheets and tiles in that unhappy room.
Did they think it might have been their tomb?—
In a time of plague, the telltale bloom
Of red pinpricks, two bloodstreams joined as one,
Two lifelines cut off in a storm of fear
Before their years of bed-hopping had begun!