Gold Country & Love Hotel

Madeleine Mori


Gold Country

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.

Love Hotel

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.


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Madeleine Mori

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.