Ghost in the Old Hotel (Reprise)

Oh, I was very young then
Not more than twenty five
Immersed in all the giddy thrills
Of simply being alive

When I had an experience
Which added to life’s breadth
By taking me up very close
To the passage we call death

Just far enough away from
The big city we’d just left
That to get ourselves back to it
There wasn’t daylight left

And on the border of a truly
Tiny little town
Is where our old VW
Decided to break down

When an antique Volkswagen throws
The cable leading to its clutch
It really doesn’t change
The motor’s workings overmuch

Except that you can’t make the thing
Roll forward any more
It only goes opposite of
The way it went before

My road companion looked at me
And I looked back at him
Prospects of further progress
On that evening growing dim

To that small town’s only garage
Our decrepit van was towed
We settled ourselves into
A resigned and restful mode

Espec’ially once we were informed
No cable could be had
Until late the next morning
There was no use getting mad

Instead we had a cup of joe
And made some inquiry
As to where decent lodgings
For the two of us might be

So came to the reception room
Of a very old hotel
A quiet, dark haired woman
Responded to its bell

She registered our presence
And handed us a key
Along with the instructions
As to where our room might be

We walked through ancient hallways
Carpeted in wine
We in its early days could see
The clientelle must have been fine

My companion didn’t feel it
Nor was I taken ill
But every step we took increased
A most unearthly chill

It covered me from foot to head
As to a bend we came
Full of a creeping kind of dread
Whose source I couldn’t name

There off from our own passageway
A smaller hallway led
To a tiny room with space
But for a single bed

Unlike the other guest rooms
It had not been modernized
The sight of an old washstand
Had me a bit surprised

Drawn I was like a magnet to
The picture at the head
Of that somehow pathetic
Narrow simple little bed

An ordinary painting
Any ordinary small town of
Featuring a tiny steeple
Hovering its roofs above

That steeple held such longing
To my inner psychic eye
As though I wished for but one thing:
To get back to it by and by

The window had a curtain
And I lifted it to see
A sight about as pleasant
As an old courtyard can be

There were bricks and ironwork
And some pretty flowers too
But not a speck of pleasure
Took I from that mellow view

It seemed to me a bucket
Hung down heavy from my arm
It seemed to me this place meant me
Incalculable harm

It seemed to me that anywhere
But here was where I longed to be
The finest thing in this whole world
Would be just to get free

As at my back the shadows
Of that old hotel grew long
Full of sadness, suffering
Loneliness and wrong

I noticed on our way back out
To dinner and a movie find
They were particularly deep
Even more cold, extra unkind

Collected round the stairwells
Leading down the kitchen to
And by the cleaning cabinets
Took on their darkest hue

I felt over my shoulder
An incipient attack
As though some threat’ning member
Of staff or guest were at my back

Those feelings lasted all night long
Knowing I’d been set a task
I stopped at the front counter
In the morning’s light to ask

If any former incident
Was known at that hotel
About a young domestic
Who looked on it as hell

And slept inside the little room
Beyond the hallway’s bend
And in this same hotel came to
A grim violent end

“I wish that I could help you,”
Said the dark haired lady, “though
I only started working here
Twenty four hours ago

“There’s little that I know
About this place’s history
But one or two regular guests
More help to you may be

“One lady I can think of
Has lived here for twenty years
A second one says that to her
A ghostly form appears

“The morning is advancing
And you must depart, I know
But I’ll stop either one of them
Who through this lobby go

“And tell them you’ll return here
Before you take your leave
We’ll see if one of them
Your curiosity relieve”

The twenty year long resident
A thorough Modern Millie was
She seemed to think of ghosts
The way she would of Santa Claus

The other woman silent stayed
Until the first had gone
And then she put a quiet
Hand my arm upon

“I don’t speak of these things
Where it my reputation mar
Because, my dear, you know
These people think we crazy are

“But matters not to me that my
Perceptions they discount:
The figure I’ve been seeing
Matches well to your account

“I watch her move from room to room
With her sadly lowered head
She gazes out the windows
She hovers by each bed

“And more than once I’ve woken
In the middle of the night
Struggling for breath and
Ready for my life to fight!”

We sat there for a moment
Paying silent tribute to
The life of that poor cleaning girl
Leading early death unto

We sent her love, we sent her peace
Permission gave for her to go
So that her longed for freedom
She presently might come to know

And prayed with all our hearts this
Downtrodden pathetic lass
Would make her happy way
Back to her steeple, home at last

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