Tales from the Dark Hotel
Mother, who owns the hotel,
sits in the lobby like a Belgian concièrge,
or moves among the plush Victorian
gewgaws, the chandeliers and sofas,
hair in pincurls. This is home but the daughter
opens the green door anyway, nods goodbye
to the careful teapots, enters a corridor
no one knows about. Here she discovers
the double, in reverse, for the whole
of Mother’s hotel. Where a passage there
turned left, a passage here turns right,
and so on, growing darker. The daughter
walks past doors that gape ajar on muffled
furniture, beds no one has slept in
since before the First World War—
elegant, airless rooms, with green-gray drapes
and silver salvers—but did they even exist
until she found them? Then she enters
the furthest bedroom, enters the furthest closet.
On the shelf for hats, a body awaits her,
her father’s body: mummy-wound.
She leaves her mother’s house on the hill
and goes down to the sea
to meet her lover while all are sleeping.
Among the pines she threads her way,
barefoot, wearing nothing
but her childhood nightgown. She has sinned—
sinned, they say, bad girl, though she
would say, been saved: what he asks,
she does. Joyfully she’ll lay her down
where the ocean licks her flesh.
But when she arrives
she does not find him. Only wide water,
night, and back there somewhere
forever ago, her mother’s house,
sleeping. And at her feet, at the ragged,
lacy selvage of the water—
(suddenly she knows that her lover
has been changed, knows the magical thing
her lover has become)—at her feet, a knot
of blood in shimmering plasm.
A redstar jellyfish pulsing, vanishing.