Room 63 • Poetry Hotel
Six Poems / Ellaraine Lockie
IN BED WITH EDGAR ALLAN
AT THE SYLVIA BEACH HOTEL
What woman would think the ending
could be so exquisitely executed
in the arms of Edgar Allan Poe
That he could be more comforting
than all those support groups
books, herbs and hormones
This man who understood loss, mourning
and madness better than any of them
Across the blood-red and black room
a stuffed raven witnesses the war
between acceptance and never-ending longing
for when life still bloomed and seeds flowered
A battle Lenore didn't live long enough to fight
My resolve swings as polemic
as the plastic pendulum with scythe above the bed
Insomnia sends me to Poe's bookshelf
Where I find a tortured prisoner
who realizes there is no choice but death
before he is snatched from its immediacy
And I am rescued with him
Anxiety lifts with the moon which spotlights
the bricked-over passage painted on the wall
Not even the tip of Fortunato's hat
squeezed from brick before his bibliophilic fate
keeps me from falling into the abyss of sleep
The circular vise of night
Hot and sweaty before the tidal wave of chills
An awakening in a pool so red and spread
that the maid will think abortion with coat hanger
Instead of a harbinger for barren
Or hell's fire flooded one final time
Cramps, craziness, leaks and stench
being what the raven meant when it said Nevermore
Note: Each room in the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, honors a famous writer.
ONE NIGHT STAND
Twenty six miles of insulation
from Los Angeles insanity
lies Santa Catalina island
Ocean mountain merged
in a past paradise
Where people drive
golf carts instead of cars
And mail isn't delivered by either
Where economy is the shape
of sightseers brought by boats
I arrive spent from deadlines
Energy fogged over
and solar lifeline depleted
European atmosphere envelopes me
with back-to-belly bodies
But populations of poppies
fish, fowl, unpredatored cats
and outback buffalo
lure me away from
the tourist tug of war
I lodge with Zane Grey
my idol-author ghost
in the cactus-covered hillside haven
To lie in literary lust
at his Pueblo Hotel panacea
Ride the purple sage
Discover desert gold
Spark my wildfire spirit
in one sleepless night
Like a quickie with
an accomplished lover
Catalina will shadow my trails
on the next sunlit day
SISTER OF NARCISSUS
After the photo, “Self-Portrait” by Sienna Brown
As she freed water from the bathtub
there clinked six times a knock of metal
She rose, wrapped a towel around her
and looked through the peephole
in the hotel room door
Seeing nothing she said Who's there
Who's there repeated a voice
heavy with the weight of an octave
Show yourself so I may decide she said
The deep echo in the hall said the same
She, having little interest in imitation
and being a modern woman wet with desire
opened the door and dropped the towel
He being an age-old fool of a man
stepped from the wall in a pool of drool
She smacked him in the face with the door
Retired to her king-sized waterbed
Listened to a litany of rejected voices
I turn down the covers to find
a curly blonde pubic hair on the bottom sheet
A violation of the virginity code
contracted with the hotel
Accommodations where we pretend
no other occupants have prefaced
We depend on hotel personnel
to master this immaculate deception
To protect us from thoughts of
used condoms, blood stains or other body fluids
To turn the toilet into a chastity belt
Free us from fear of bare bottoms in the bathtub
Whether towels or washcloths have touched foot fungus
Or if anonymous streptococcus has been sterilized
But now worries from the real world
weave through this ringlet
Wind around my sense of solitude
And snarl into a ball that clogs my drain of delusion
Exposing images of strangers
Voyeur bed reverberations
Smells of unfamiliar aftershave
And ghosts in mirrors with memory
in this serial monogamy of one-night stands
Where I resign to the reality of a rented room
Where it’s midnight
and housekeeping has gone home
I Google germs in hair
to find there are millions in one follicle
But that most die in 60 seconds
I pull on sweats before sliding between sheets
And into the immaculate world of Morpheus
BIDET IN A HAIBUN
The bathroom hosts a bidet. It squats like a toilet that hasn't yet grown up.
I wonder why a five-star hotel in Florence would harbor such antiquity. My husband and I keep
dirty thoughts from soiling our conversation. We walk a wide berth around the relic.
Bouquet in a vase
Sunflowers nod their welcome
Poppy turns its back
On day two, curiosity narrows the path around the bidet. What is its function? A urinal for men
perhaps. A toilet for tots. Or their drinking fountain. Maybe a women's lingerie tub. A bathtub
for babies. A bottom wash for adults.
The husband makes his own assumption. He washes his feet in it after a day of museums, tours
and shopping. No way would I sit in it now. But I turn-on the faucets. See how the bowl fills fast
with fresh water.
Arno River runs
under Ponte Vecchio
Tuscan sun dazzles
Day three and I'm embarrassed to ask about the bidet. I do what any modern traveler would: I
Google on my laptop. I read that bidets are as common as toilet paper in much of the world. That
toilet paper is unhygienic. Americans are unhygienic.
Light from the full moon
floods the bed where she sleeps
Red colors the sheets
Day four I follow instructions on Google. Face the wall. Straddle the thing. Turn faucets. Basin
fills. Water like a spring brook. A linen towel on a rack. The online address where I order my
own Biffy bidet converter. Works on any American toilet.
WHY I DON'T SHOWER
I’m a bath person. I’ve never showered in my own home. And hardly ever
anywhere else. Only when a bathtub is non-existent. Then only when my husband says
it’s either a shower or a separate bed.
Like in Berlin, where I accompanied him on a business trip. There a week with a
closet size bathroom. The shower like an upright coffin. After five days of cowboy baths,
I prepare for the real thing. Lock all the windows and doors, so as not to wind up a
Hitchcock corpse sitting in some psycho’s rocking chair.
I skeptically step into the shower stall. Turn the control handle. The first blast
rates right up there with a Montana blizzard. I make three minutes of adjustments to the
temperamental handle until it agrees to a tolerable temperature.
I soap up, down and around--once for each disregarded, dirt- collecting day. Now
to figure out how to shave my legs when there isn’t space to bend over. The only sensible
solution is to open the shower door and stick out one wet leg at a time for the shearing.
Stork balancing not being one of my strengths, I fall into the fiberglass wall
repeatedly. With each imbalance, a new red line paints itself down a leg. I now see why
German women don’t shave.
Next is my hair. I bend my head forward, flip hair over head, and water fills my
ears. When I squeeze the shampoo tube, hydraulic force flushes the contents into my
Eyes burning and closed, I reach for the control handle but grab a steel cord
instead. Something comes loose, and the hand-held showerhead hits me on my left ear.
Then the water stops.
The control handle hates me by now so refuses to entertain even pathetic pleas. I
stumble, soapy and nearly blind with a slight concussion, out of the stall. Slip on tile
where water has escaped during the leg shave and land on my tailbone.
I crawl naked to the telephone in the freezing bedroom. The desk clerk says the
shower is on a timer. But if I wait awhile, it will reset.
I limp back to the bathroom. Settle my soap-caked, bleeding body sideways on
the towel-cushioned toilet and baby-talk the control handle. Just when the rash on my
chest begins to itch, water emerges from the spigot. So I start the temperature guessing
game all over again.
Determined this time to rinse and be out of here in record time, I am. Because
suddenly the water turns scalding hot. I scream, and a man in the next room yells an
apology for turning on the cold water tap in his sink.
Boiled, bruised, anemic and hearing impaired, I’m ready to see through stinging
eyes the Berlin sights. Of course, they don’t care one way or the other whether I’m clean.
But at least I won’t go to bed in a roll-a-way when I get back.
Ellaraine Lockie is widely published and awarded as a poet, nonfiction book author and essayist. Her fourteenth chapbook, Sex and Other Slapsticks, was recently released from Presa Press. Earlier collections have won Poetry Forum’s Chapbook Contest Prize, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Chapbook Competition, Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest, Best Individual Poetry Collection Award from Purple Patch magazine in England Competition, and the Aurorean’s Chapbook Choice Award.
Ellaraine’s poems have found their ways onto broadsides, buses, rented cars, bicycles, cabins, greeting cards, key chains, bookmarks, mugs, coffee sack labels, church bulletins, radio shows and cable TV as well as into hundreds of national and international journals, magazines and anthologies. She has received multiple fellowships/ residencies from both Summer Literary Seminars and the Centrum Literary Residency Program. Thirty of her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Ellaraine teaches writing workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, Lilipoh.
Sienna Brown is a Bay Area photographer who specializes in body parts.
Acknowledgements: "In Bed with Edgar Allan at the Sylvia Beach Hotel" first appeared in Oregon Writers Colony Colonygram; "One Night Stand" first appeared in MG Versions (France); "Sister of Narcissus" first appeared in Shakespeare's Monkey Revue (Australia); "Anywhere Hotel" first appeared in Ibbetson Street; "Bidet in a Haibun" first appeared in Barbaric Yawp; "Why I Don't Shower" first appeared in Long Story Short.
Self Portrait by Sienna Brown