Cecil Hotel

Mary-Alice Daniel
Part 1: Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice


Even with a body dumped

in the water tank, the Cecil Hotel isn’t bad enough

to earn a spot in the Horrible Histories walking tour.

The cleanish communal bathrooms have two chambers, separated

by a shower curtain. We duck out

of the jet stream and drink beers in the dry partition,

then plunge our heads back under the water.

We do this for a good long time.

This is hours after he’d arrived in L.A. for the first time

and months after I’d left and returned.

He doesn’t like Koreatown; it reminds him of anyplace

with palm trees. Skid Row is entirely new.

The management: taking hauntings so seriously

they rope off the top few floors where

the raving man ghost was last heard.

This is where serial killers stayed: Ramirez, the Night Stalker,

and Jack the Journalist, who thought to expose L.A. crime, then

killed three prostitutes in homage to his subject.

The “premier choice of affordability downtown,” “European style,”

home to a few one-off murders,

rumors of the Black Dahlia,

and a couple of men committed.

Those at the end of their ropes end their lives here. It’s just what these people do.

So you showered in her death water?

Yes, a 21-year-old junkhead dies in an SRO

and I got to brush my teeth in what little

the water tank spurted out. They don’t fix it for weeks;

they have to deal with the elevator and the wireless.

Constant spectre sightings in the hallways all along.

Low water pressure all morning.

We could barely brush our teeth, but

authorities insist the water’s safe now.


Part 2: Degloving


Who has the right to make new things?

I mean, in ethical terms: who can produce interest,

what can reproduce with what.

I didn’t really shower in that death water at the Cecil Hotel.

I did stay there.

Cody really did smoke cigarettes on the balcony

and he really could see “some hills and smog and stars and shit”

and the up side

down sign of The Standard.

He really did think to say those city buzzwords

hills smog stars shit

But we never meant poverty porn;

we’re just gluttons for the symmetry of tents lined against art deco buildings

and the bedlam of cheap rolling luggage we were trying to drag unnoticed

past vagrants

We did scrub each other like we were each other’s corpse

preparations, Jesus’ feet, Baptisms,

all the good stuff about washing,

in the disinfected/shared bathroom/down the hall/drinking malt liquor.

But we were there 6 months before.

                    (If cutting a favorite line of a poem is like removing a limb,

                   then shoehorning the shit you feel entitled to write

                   is like sewing overgrown keloids and seromas onto your forehead.

                   Uneasy, uneasy. This sounds sweaty and sleazy.)

Perhaps the victim had a whole shopping cart of good ideas.

She was a methadone zombie; maybe she thought

the water tank was a Jacuzzi. Maybe she thought

I hold death in my pouch; I can not die.

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