Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Emma Neale’s ‘The First World Hotel’

The First World Hotel

You’re quite some guest, you know, buddy. Wet towels tossed in loose crumples like botched thank-you notes; toast crumbs Hanselled in pockets of your room; thoughts and plans kept schtoom behind that door-sized don’t disturb sign. The other occupants only ever hear you from behind the clam-shell of your walls; as if your murmured conversations always hide private, no-tell pearls.

Sometimes, true, they glimpse you in the front foyer as you knock storm-strewn camellias, tea-bag brown, from your shoes; shake rain, wood-smoke, and leaf-lint from your lapels. Or with their arms laden with laundry, linen, they might pass you in the corridor’s electric fritz and hum, where your fleet nod and smile flash up like ID, for security scans that you hope run glitch-free, let you back into your own hushed interior.

They carry on: attend to quiet comforts. Not after-dinner mints on pillows; white cloths folded into mute swans; not single malt, strong, campfire peaty and dry, in doll-sized phials. They store and preserve the apple-fall of small realisations. Such as, when you leave, how polite this son will be, as he acknowledges transient strangers in the world’s anonymous spaces.

Emma Neale

Emma Neale is the author of six novels and six collections of poetry. Her most recent novel, Billy Bird (2016) was short-listed for the Acorn Prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards and long-listed for the Dublin International Literary Award. Emma has received a number of literary fellowships, residencies and awards, the most recent of which is the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for a Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand Poetry 2020. Her first collection of short stories, Party Games, is due out late 2020/early 2021. Emma lives and works in Ōtepoti/Dunedin, and she is the current editor of Landfall, New Zealand’s longest-running literary journal.

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