Hotel Bathtub Madonna and Child

from by Harrison Lemke

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They're calling you home
so you turn off the phone
and just let it lie dead
in the center console of the rental car
and drive a hundred miles west
to the oceanside,
check in to a Shiloh Inn there
a half-mile from the shoreline.
But there's a paper bag caught
in the Oregon grape
by the hotel wall, and you're wondering
is this all a big mistake.

You head down to the water,
fists balled in your sleeves,
hood drawn against the wet wind,
just looking for some peace.
The cold fog burns your skin
and the cold air hurts your teeth;
still, your heart gets light
mounting the last rise.
But the ocean and the sky
put up a unified front,
one blinding wall of white,
a real inscrutable one.

Burst through the door.
Throw your coat on the floor.
Sit a minute on the bedspread,
faint queasy scent of cigarettes.
You run yourself a bath;
you fumble with the fixtures,
fingers too numb
to properly gauge the temperature,
and with your glasses off
you could almost swear you see
the outline of the Virgin & Child
in the mildew on the ceiling tile.
The bathwater slides
like hot defeat over you,
and you stare up at the stain
and say a sour little word or two.


from some more advent songs, released December 25, 2017




Harrison Lemke Austin, Texas

tape-hiss symphonies to God

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