On Holiday

This particular blowup,
same as all the others, yet distinct:
We’ve pulled into a Ramada lot
outside Frankfort, Kentucky,
or a Motel Six in Georgia.
Someplace between places.

Vacancies—but two stories up.
The lobby’s incandescent glare
cannot blind my mother to the inferno
that awaits us in the darkness: flames
gnawing through curtains like moths,
lungs flooding with toxic smoke,
swan dives from balconies. She
insists upon a ground floor room,
voice raised, as though my father
and the clerk, a gum-snapping teen,
are in conspiracy.

We stop for supper en route
to the next motel. My sister dozes
into her mac and cheese. Across
placemats, our parents clasp hands,
road-raw and heat-sapped. Still capable
of mistaking peace for joy.

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