George Longenecker

I checked into my room on the 19th floor,

half of the 20th century, room by room on the 19th floor.

High above Boston harbor I tried the bed,

unpacked my bags and notebooks on the 19th floor.

I slept in the year of my conception and Hiroshima,

across from my birth room on the 19th floor.

After breakfast I got off on the 13th floor

at 1347, the Black Death—so glad to return to the 19th floor.

The Great War had begun in room 1914,

Sarajevo, Gallipoli, sand, no water on the 19th floor.

Bloody sheets, four rooms of carnage, no food, no water,

room service, room service to the 19th floor!

Flu, pandemic, guests dying in 1918—no water,

we need medics now to the 19th floor!

Severe depression, robbery, room 1929—

Herbert Hoover, wakeup call; come now to the 19th floor!

Nazis starting fires in the Reich Suite, 1933,

all available emergency services to the 19th floor!

Bomb alert, room 1939, take shelter!

All British guests evacuate the 19th floor!

I couldn’t sleep—smoke and screaming from 1944,

1945 so hot, then silence on the 19th floor.

Gandhi is waiting and weaving in 1947

while Kenyatta and Nkrumah watch on the 19th floor.

The room numbers end with the hydrogen bomb

halfway down the century on the 19th floor.

I pound and pound on the door of my birth room: “George,

my mother screams, George, get off—it’s the 19th floor!”

George Longenecker teaches in the Department of English, Humanities and Social Sciences at Vermont Technical College. His most recent publications are in The Dos Passos Review, Rockhurst Review and Steam Ticket. His poem "Edsel" was a winner in The 2009 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards and is forthcoming in The Paterson Review.

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