Pandemic Escapees by Leah Mueller

jt inn 4

Pandemic Escapees
by Leah Mueller

Lying in our motel bed
halfway between
Washington and Arizona:

fitful crossroads
of a dirty central
California town.

Steinbeck country
minus the romance.

Days Inn of Westley,
ground-floor room
with a parking lot view,
68 dollars plus tax.

I shove my ears tight
against the pillows
to stifle the endless
rumble of semis.

Dreams punctuated
by the frantic
shriek of brakes
and the sudden roar
of acceleration.

Truckers can’t
afford to rest,
and neither can we.

Tomorrow night,
the two of us
will reach Joshua Tree
and sleep in the room
where Gram Parsons died.

In the morning,
we’ll have breakfast
on the patio, seated alone
in gritty iron chairs

beside the artificial
blue shimmer
of a swimming pool:

your gaunt cheeks pale
as you scoop food
from its Styrofoam wrappings.

So far to drive until
the desert appears.

So much in the
rearview mirror, getting
smaller by the second.

PHOTO: Joshua Tree Inn, 61259 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, California, 92252 — located in the Mojave DesertRoom 8 honors singer/songwriter/musician Gram Parsons, who died there on September 19, 1973 at age 26. (Photo from the Joshua Tree Inn website.)


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Pandemic Escapees” concerns a recent road trip I took with my husband when we moved from Tacoma, Washington, to Bisbee, Arizona, at the onset of the pandemic. It was a most depressing and surreal time, but it yielded an unexpected benefit. The Joshua Tree Hotel, where Gram Parsons drew his last breaths, was completely empty, and I got to realize a long-time dream of spending the night in his room.

PHOTO: Gram Parsons memorial at Joshua Tree Inn. Photo by Leah Mueller.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Bisbee, Arizona. Her most recent books, Misguided Behavior, Tales of Poor Life Choices (Czykmate Press), Death and Heartbreak (Weasel Press), and Cocktails at Denny’s (Alien Buddha Press) were released in 2019. Leah’s work appears in Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and other publications. Her essay, “Firebrand, The Radical Life and Times of Annie Besant,” is featured in the book, Fierce, Essays By and About Dauntless Women, which placed first in the nonfiction division of the 2019 Publisher’s Weekly Booklife contest. Visit her on Instagram and Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Pandemic Escapees by Leah Mueller

    1. Actually, I was thinking more about central California with that line. Joshua Tree is less depressing. But yeah, that whole area is freaky. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

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