Hour 12 — Signs at the Panama Hotel

Beth A. Fleisher

Hour 12

Prompt:  Take a book off the shelf… First line: Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel.


Signs at the Panama Hotel


The Panama Hotel was old.

The guidebooks said historic, and that’s true.

But old is true, too, exterior

in need of paint, interior needing carpet,

like an elderly woman who needs a new dress.


I told my Seattle friend Henry Lee

about my grandparents owning a shop

in Chinatown when they were young.

I wanted to stay nearby and walk around

the neighborhood, see their old shop.


He said the Panama Hotel was just the place,

barely a stone’s throw away from Chinatown.

By all accounts, it was still a favorite place

to stay, close to Pike’s Place Market,

where you can buy pretty much anything.


So, I had booked a room for one, sight unseen,

and here I was, in my room, which was clean

and tidy and included a small refrigerator,

microwave, hair dryer, iron, and a sink —

but no en suite bathroom.


I stared transfixed at the plush, spa-like bathrobe

hanging in the closet. And the sign beside it:

Please enjoy this robe when you use the bathroom

in the hallway. Separate men’s and ladies facilities.

I stood there and read the sign again.


Well, I shrugged, at least there are separate

men’s and ladies’ facilities. In my mind, I made

the words sound very proper and British.

Out in the hallway, I was just reaching for

the door to the ladies’ room when a man bolted past me.


Close behind him was a little, old lady waving her cane

like a Jedi light saber, yelling “Pervert,” and a younger woman

who was trying to stop her. A crowd had gathered,

everyone talking at once. It was quite a commotion.

Apparently, the poor fellow hadn’t read either sign.


2 thoughts on “Hour 12 — Signs at the Panama Hotel

  1. Comment by Ivan Bekaren

    Beth Fleisher for some reason i am unable to comment on your poem directly so i’ll do that here. Here it goes

    Panama – Hotel poem

    Overall, i think its a gorgeously written narrative piece of fine poetry.

    The structure, though which at first leaves the mind scuttering about to grasp the essence, turns out to be a fine eye lead up to the last lines of the poem upon re reading. Made me feel like i was looking for some relic
    Which turned out to be
    1. The fact that the character who you represent in your voice, is quietly displeased with her reality, taking into account the fact that she is either used to much better or wouldn’t mind having her expectations met even though she tries not to care.
    2. The comedy of the narrative which sorta left me stuck in a chuckle.

    Its astounding that you pulled all that from your imagination Beth. I’m in awe. I actually believed every word till i scrolled to the very top and saw the prompt. Regardless, engaging, comic and interesting at the same time. Love it!

    1. I copied and posted your comment here so I would have it in WordPress.
      Thanks for the great comments! I am jazzed that the poem totally drew you in and you believed it was me writing about my own experience. 🙂 I am a writer — pulling things from my imagination is not hard for me. But I’ve never done something like this, where there’s a prompt and you have to use some or all of the words in a poem. It stretched me, for sure, but it was a challenge…like a dare LOL…so I just had fun with it. And I love Google!! Made it easy to see pictures of the Panama Hotel and find out more about the location to flesh out the details. Anyway…I love your comment that it is “engaging, comic and interesting all at the same time.” And that you love it.

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