Gold Country & Love Hotel
Hold your breath ‘cause you’re, you are nothing.
Hold your hand on me for a while.
-Beach House, “Apple Orchard”
Driving up from Santa Rosa, my work shirt smells
of downy mildew, sulfur gas from my internship
tipping wine grapes into a crusher’s sticky maw.
Our mothers spool out yarns: we’re bad influences
on each other—my job producing the stuff of his drinking.
When I drive these weekends in secret to steal him away
from rehab, we choose the Mother Lode Motel. We miner,
we fur and tallow, we sluice box. He rocks my golden baby
till no more shakes loose. When we venture, the hills are bursting
with apple season and a man tries to sell us a combo
belt buckle-pocketknife, embossed with prideful eagles.
We yip in his face, stuff our cheeks with fritter.
I know what destruction can be made of fruit—my thighs
ripened by the end of the day. Back in the Mother Lode,
we coil like the last two sun-stoned snakes on earth.
We bad egg rolls, crush fortune cookies into the sheets,
but right as I bring out the sweet chili, it’s curfew
and he has to jog back down that slushed, dark road
to the sober house named Tree, whose old window frame
he must jimmy, before slipping back into his twin bed,
his clothes perfumed with cinnamon, the white turn of rot.
I was locked behind a story-
high, gold wall of bars. The floor
was red, plush mattress,
a Japanese love hotel,
so that when I tried to stand
my ankles buckled, knocking
me back down, skirt flaring,
an endless curse up my thighs.
You were on the other side
of the bars. I begged you birdlike—
mizu, mizu—to water, to seed me.
And when you did not answer,
I finally looked behind me,
only to realize I was free—
that you were, in fact, in the cage
and a hand as wide as the silent
side of the world was pulling
the black hood down, saying
it was time that you sleep now.
Madeleine Mori is a Japanese-American poet originally from San Francisco. She received a bachelor's degree in winemaking from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and an MFA from New York University, where she served as a Poetry Editor of Washington Square Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Cosmonauts Avenue, Salt Hill, Sixth Finch, Neck, and The Cincinnati Review, among others. She is the Poetry Editor at Pigeon Pages and lives in Brooklyn.