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Hotel Bathtub Madonna and Child

from Technicolor Nativity 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 Shilo 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 at the fixtures,
fingers too numb
to gauge the temperature.

And with your glasses off
you could almost swear you see
the outline of the Virgin and Child
in the mildew
on the ceiling tile.

And the bathwater slides
hot like defeat over you,
and you stare up at the stain
and say a sour little word or two.


from Technicolor Nativity, released December 13, 2019
Harrison - guitar, vocals, casiotone.


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Harrison Lemke Austin, Texas

tape-hiss symphonies to God

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