Mar 24, 2014

More Motel Charm, plus Mary Szybist's "Night Shifts at the Group Home"

Blue Traveler

In case you came for a poem, a discussion of Mary Szybist’s “Night Shifts in the Group Home” follows two brief travel notes from strange bedfellows on the internet. But play before work. For . . . charm? . . . the first note probably depends entirely upon high quality Kleenex. The second speaks for itself.

1     They were evaluating different TV providers so we had almost no channels all week. They paid for any guest to go see a movie in town as compensation . . . . If they get new mattresses, flat screen TVs and softer Kleenex the hotel will be up to the chain’s standards.
The Road

       2. I stayed in [that motel] for 3 days and i got bit up by bed bugs. i came back after christmas to his other motel and told him he called me a liar and didnt believe me. he said he just had it gone through and sprayed they didnt find any bed bugs. a few night later he comes to my room and chews me out telling the guys i work with about it. he said they came in with me my bag or clothes that it could have been a spider or somthing. i know that is not that case that it was his motel that i got bit up at and nothing came from my house or bags and i know it wasnt a spider. I dont appricate being called a lair or cussed out.
Convent or Group Home?

Night Shifts at the Group Home by Mary Szybist : The Poetry Foundation

The connection between motel visitors and group homes may seem thin and far-fetched, but think about it. In travel, our actual, current neighbors and our imagined past fellow travelers are arbitrarily appointed to
us, a little like the members of a group home—or boarding school, or college, or apartment building.

So the relationship between the speaker and the resident
in Mary Szybist’s “Night Shifts at the Group Home” is more universal than it might seem. The resident, apparently named Lily Mae, is some kind of patient, “older than my mother: manic, caught / up in gibberish,” while the speaker, a supervisor of some sort, a  protector and keeper of order, says, “I needed relief // from myself” and “I just didn’t love / my loneliness.”

Atlantic on Rocks, Manic, Caught Up in Gibberish
So the two end up in a somewhat forced intimacy in a single cot--the speaker’s.
Girls, Those Same Rocks

That’s a strange situation, but isn’t it just an extreme example of humans being thrown together in one or another kind of communal living? The lines and the idea I like best in this strange portrait are:

                   I imagine I 

                   was someone she won
                       at a fair as the wheel spun
     under the floating, unfaltering sun
Feeling destiny cast her about like that, plus seeing herself as a doll-object in someone else’s view, plus being pulled from her lofty intellectualization into an awareness of separate selves as inarticulate bodies—all that adds up to a supra-rational liberation for the speaker. So yes, she ends up “undone,” but “happily” so.

Grackle on Ice


Anonymous said...

That second review is a poem in itself.

Banjo52 said...

AH, good point. Surely it could qualify as a "found poem"?

Stickup Artist said...

I found the poem disturbing. That's not a judgement, and I'm trying to figure out why I'm disturbed. I guess cause I don't mind being alone and can't imagine anyone being that lonely? It's almost hurtful. Anyway, on a brighter note, I loved the first and last photos. They were uplifting after the poem experience.

Banjo52 said...

Stickup, I can see why you found it disturbing. I bet comfort with solitude is one of the areas in which humans vary the most. Just look at the brand spanking new electronic ways we have of reaching out. Cell phones! OMG. Still, I share your feeling that the poem presents an extreme and disturbing situation. I wonder if we should see it as a metaphor for what extreme loneliness feels like, to some if not all.

About the photos, thanks once again. I admit that I like those two, plus the two girls. The sail boat and the girls were pretty much dumb luck, proving the axiom, when in doubt, take the shot.

Anonymous said...

About the poem, the actual poem, I'm not sure why it was written as a poem, with the breaks and so forth.

It seemed more like prose to me, and strong enough to stand as prose. Sometimes the poetic divisions seem like someone writing with a series of !!!! after every few lines.

Banjo52 said...

AH, I do know what you mean, but I see so many bizarre, self-conscious line breaks and so much prose masquerading as poetry that this one doesn't bother me. Maybe it should. Also she has some on and off rhyme, which might partially explain the line breaks, or maybe not. But in general, I'm with you in wondering why more contemporary poets don't just choose prose. We even have the relatively new genre of flash fiction, so length shouldn't be the explanation. Thanks for looking and thinking. Flu any better?

Lovers' Lane