Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ho Fa Hotel: On the malady of travel

I'm working on a post about editing poetry, but it still needs some work. In the meantime, here's another poem. This is one of my favourites.
Ho Fa Hotel: On the malady of travel

This is the front desk, and behind it is your proprietor’s bed. You will call him, Oldman, or Mr.Blueshirt.

You will give Mr.Blueshirt four days in which to live this life, and in them he will never see rain.

The days are indistinct, like four ripe oranges peeled and sectioned on a white plate. You recollect them oddly: morning, afternoon, evening, night. Compose and recompose them: first floor, second floor, third floor, fourth. The hours and floors do not correspond. They are their own systems of memory.

For example, on the morning of the first floor, Mr.Blueshirt has a book in which you write – what you believe to be – your name. But it’s also morning when Oldman’s key sings into the padlock of door 24 and frees the pierced tongue of the latch. The door yawns.

There’s a moment – standing on the second floor at the shore of this new world – when the room babbles senselessly to you. The moment before the four-legged creature barks chair, or the sharp-winged bird whistles fan. The moment it takes for the far light of the mountains to reach your eyes and mean toilet, and sink. As you move to the bed that is already nothing like a bank of sand, you realise Oldman is gone and it’s nearly dark.

At night, all the hinges lift like moths from the doors of the Ho Fa Hotel and your dreams run amok in the rooms.

On the third floor the rooms are all locked. On the fourth, the doors are boarded over. On each floor but the first, there’s a balcony that looks out over the street, and in the morning the street is busy and Mr.Blueshirt sits in the sun.

There are no other guests at the Ho Fa. Just two strange voices one night behind door 29. In the morning the door is ajar and the wastebasket holds orange peels and stubbed cigarettes.

In the afternoon, beyond the locked door of room 36, there’s a commotion of birds. Through a crack you see flutter of shadows in sunlight.

The fourth day is a final balcony. Sun rising, or setting on the town. You are perched on the rail in the burning light. Two short hops and you burst into flight.

By Michael Eden Reynolds
first published in Grain

No comments: