Maggie Butt

The Archaeology of Hotel Rooms

It’s almost always August in hotels,
and always present tense. Owned and occupied,
without past or future; our breath fills its space.
Layers fine as mille-feiulle, sweet with sugar dust,
pot-shards and fragments, photo-bright:

The surface is Moroccan silk, harem-scarlet
shot with sunset gold, the hum of air-conditioning,
comforting as money. Storks clack like football rattles
on the roof – sign of good luck, as if I didn’t
smell the deep spice of it – saffron, tumeric, paprika.

Peel back years like faded floral wallpaper,
good fortune pasted on good fortune.
Find a wide room for families, small dormitory
of watchfulness, blue with Italian light
detail of sleeping faces, fine as an old master.

Down to a Paris room where flowerprint grew over
walls and ceiling, door-back, curtains, counterpane.
A room with no way out, where none was wanted;
this space held everything there was, hot-house
of universe and time, love’s here and now.

Sift softly, blow those grains, flick squirrel brush,
back to the first, foreign with the unknown smell
of garlic, which loitered like a stranger on the stairs.
Baroque figures winked down on me in bolstered bed
cloaks flying, into the unknown summers.