‘Violent touch and violence in rooms’ — John Berryman

The abandoned brothel above the architect’s office
in Portland’s Old Town where I had my first real summer job
in 1972 had a long hallway with narrow rooms. Each one
had a light switch outside and a red light over the door inside
Most of the walls were gone only framing and a half inch of
dust like grey lint and pigeon shit everywhere and I could see the
old police chief or councilman with a taste for the rougher sort of thing
slamming up the backstairs making the girls stomachs tighten
waiting to see who he would pick and the madam handing out
a few extra dollars for the night because it usually meant at least
a black eye or worse

The summer I worked there our charismatic young mayor
was secretly molesting the fourteen year old daughter
of a campaign worker and having his chauffeur and his fixer
cover his tracks for decades as he went on to the governor’s office
and then a federal appointment with his party making big plans for him

Now we have a US president who brags openly about molesting women
and uses a mafia-trained fixer to clean up his messes and says he
would date his daughter if she weren’t related to him and I now
know that most often violence happens in closed rooms
instead of streets or on battlefields where you can see it coming
or get out of the way or shoot back and yet a majority of white
women voted for this president even knowing all this about him

I’m back in Old Town and there is a clothing store and a
software company in that building now and life goes on
like it always has except maybe something is changing because my
daughter in college and her friends were harassed at work for weeks
and refused to put up with it and spoke up about it and now that guy
doesn’t work there anymore and that never would have happened
in Old Town in the good old days

One response to “Brothel

  1. A grim heritage. Maybe it is getting a little better, like for the gays. A good story poem.


    Liked by 1 person

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