Terminal Motel & 2 other new poems by Leah Mueller


Terminal Motel:
garish orange neon,
missing several letters

blinks its welcome
to two hitchhikers
thirty miles east of Laredo.

He clutches a battered guitar case,
she hoists a backpack
filled with torn sundresses.

They haven’t fought yet,
but it’s still early.

Sitting cross-legged
on the flimsy mattress:
he plays slide guitar
with a toilet paper spindle,

improvises a blues song
named ‘Terminal Motel’,
wanders to the gas station
for four quarts of Budweiser.

He pays for them
with a handful of quarters.

The arguments always follow:
beer caps strewn
across the carpet like
bread crumbs that lead

to nowhere. Accusations
of infidelity, fists on walls,
tears and drunken sex,
followed at last by sleep.

Perhaps they’ll get
an earlier start tomorrow,
after the apologies
and promises have been spoken.

Though the walls are thin,
no one ever hears anything.

Shortly after dawn,
they wander across the median,
stick thumbs in the air,

watch the cars pass
and wait for someone to stop.

The hiss of the tires
dissolves the hours, turns
morning into afternoon.

Drivers stare ahead,
eyes fixed on windshields
as they head to couches
and television shows.

A sedan pulls over:
the two begin to run,

but the car takes off
at the last second,
leaving the couple
in a cloud of exhaust
and adolescent laughter.

It won’t be long
until the two of them
start to blame each other,
pacing and hurling epithets
like missiles.

At this rate, they’ll never
leave Texas. The sun
blisters their shoulders,

a hot and accusatory God,
and New Orleans is
far away as heaven.


He bought me a bag of
“Love Me Tender” dog food,
stood in the middle
of the grocery aisle
and imitated Elvis, but poorly.
3:00 AM mini-mart after
bar time: both of us knew
I was going back to his apartment
after he paid the cashier.

I should have stayed home
with the puppy, but I chose to
get drunk with a man
who left me cold as a
Chicago winter. I was that lonely.
We bought more beer and
headed back to his place,
drank and listened to the stereo
until I had to lie down
on his king-sized bed
to stop the room from spinning.

He climbed under the covers,
tried to kiss me, tenderly,
yet I was having none of it.
His hands moved relentlessly
down the sides of my neck
towards my half-exposed breasts,
but I stopped him abruptly
and burst into noisy tears.

“I’m sorry,” he said,
“I really like you.”
“It wouldn’t be right for me
to fuck you,” I sobbed.
“I don’t have any
feelings for you whatsoever.”

I lost consciousness, while
he hovered above me
on the enormous mattress,
staring down at my face
with a tragic expression.
The following morning,
he looked devastated, so I
promised to call after I had
a couple of days to think.
At least he was smart enough
not to believe me.

I grabbed the dog food
and wandered into the warm
April morning. His street
was alive with tulips of
every imaginable color. I
saw tulips in shades I’d
never noticed before: pale blue and
pumpkin orange and brilliant yellow.

The perfect light
overwhelmed me with pain,
as I thought how beautiful
everything would look if only
I’d spent the night
with somebody I loved.


My time is valuable,
and I demand
to be the only one
who wastes it.

If you intrude
with impossible requests,
I’ll waste more time
trying to convince you
to release your grip.

My deficit is doubled
and now I must work
twice as hard
to recover my lost minutes.

You’ve already moved on
to your next victim
and my day lies flaccid,
twitching and exhausted
as a deflated balloon.

I doubt if it was
worth the time it took
for you to filch my minutes,
or if you’ll even know
where to put them.

I hope they fall
from your pockets
like stolen pennies,
only to be found by people
who will use them
to buy bouquets of flowers.

Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of two chapbooks and four books. Her latest book, a memoir entitled “Bastard of a Poet” was published by Alien Buddha Press in June, 2018. Leah’s work appears or is forthcoming in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, Outlook Springs, Crack the Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and other publications. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival, and a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp humor poetry contest.

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