To the Next to Last Howard Johnson’s

Deborah Pope

BPR 46 | 2019

        One of only two Howard Johnson’s left is closing its
        doors in Bangor, Maine, due to lack of business.

Goodbye, Howard of the orange roofs,
the turquoise spires, the fried clams,
hamburgers, and milkshakes in 24 flavors.
Goodbye, Johnson of the aqua pools
we begged for on the long, hot cross-country
drive out west in a Chevrolet with a room
air-conditioner bolted on a frame
to the driver’s side window, freezing
my father, while the other cranked-up
windows sweated the be-jeezus
out of three kids pinching for space
in the back seat. Goodbye, car of a father
who said, “be-jeezus,” “how ’bout them apples,”
and how high 40 cents was for gas
at some last chance Esso, Pure, or Sinclair.
Car of smoke, ash trays, and a steering knob
on a wheel big as a tire. Goodbye,
Stuckey’s and Mail Pouch, walk-up
Dairy Queen huts with coiled turbans
of vanilla and cracking chocolate,
and perspiring mugs of A&Ws on sticky,
vinyl seats. Goodbye, heat mirages
on rolling two-lane roads, restroom keys
on wooden rectangles by greasy car lifts,
keys that led around the back to peeling doors
opening on doll-size basins and crickets.
Goodbye, to counted states on single color
license plates, single-story brick motels,
teepees and cabins in a circle.
Oh newspaper-sized maps taking us
to the promised land of Penny and Sky King,
Pa and Johnny McCain, black-brimmed
Paladin, that we watched on our black-and-white
Crosley with Sunday night pizza on TV trays,
listening for “Maverick, ring your bell,”
all of us together. You know, together.