The Old Lafayette Club • Nancy Lewis

Norfolk, Virginia, 1997

The vacant club house squats
brontosaurus-like in marsh
grass, in the sunrise shadow of the bridge. A lone
seagull issues a raucous cry
and flaps away. A single
easy chair stares blindly
out across the water
from the end
of the concrete dock
which heaves like the queasy dream
of a seasick sailor. The marshland
harbors a long-necked bird
with eyes black-ringed. Bandit.
Inside, the building buckles,
bulges. Red spray-painted graffiti
shouts from stark white block walls,
and fluorescent light fixtures
strangle, noosed
by their own electrical cords.
Bunk cubicles stand
at odd angles to each other
in the ruin of a ballroom floor.
An empty can of green beans
tips its hat to an aerosol
of shaving cream. The dry
and well-worn leather toes
of a pair of tan work boots
crease upward, shreds
of white paint hang
like stalactites from the ceiling
of the kitchen, and
someone has fashioned
a shiny bedroom
from the walk-in, stainless steel cooler.
Outside, the murky water
of the Olympic-sized pool rusts
ladders, slides and chairs
that jut menacingly
from the depths, while in the
slime of the kiddie pool, unidentifiable
dark streaks that are creatures
dart for the cover of islands
of trash. The only color,
the confetti of rainbow
mosaic tiles littering the
ground like New Year’s Day.
Mud-brown mussels sprout
like packed crocuses, and bleached
snail jewels lie tossed beyond,
near where the grass grows.
A band of marauding gulls
screeches past the army of
pilings that once moored
more than a hundred seagoing
craft at a time. The
afternoon’s low tide exposes
moss-bedded barnacles on the
aluminum-topped soldiers.
A neon-headed duck drifts
lazily by on the channel’s inbound ripples.