“Cheap Motels of My Youth” by George Bilgere

George Bilgere


They lay somewhere between
the Sleeping In The Car era
and my current and probably final era,
the Best Western or Courtyard Marriott era.
The Wigwam. Log Cabin. Kozy Komfort
Hiway House. Star Lite. The Lazy A.
Just off the interstate, the roar
of the sixteen-wheelers all night long.
The dented tin door opening to the parking lot,
the broken coke machine muttering to itself.
“Color TV.” “Free HBO.” “Hang Yourself
in Our Spacious Closets.” A job interview
at some lost-in-the-middle-of-nowhere
branch campus of some agricultural college
devoted to the research and development
of the soybean and related by-products.
Five-course teaching load, four of them
Remedial Comp. Candidate
must demonstrate familiarity
with the basic tenets of Christian faith.
Chance of getting the job
one in a hundred. Lip-sticked
cigarette butt under the bed.
Toilet seat with its paper band,
“Sanitized for Your Protection,”
dead roach floating in the bowl.
As the free HBO
flickers in the background,
you stare in the cracked mirror
at a face too young, too full of hope
to deserve this. And you wait
for the Courtyard Marriott era to arrive.

from Cheap Motels of My Youth
2023 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner


George Bilgere: “When I was eight years old my parents got divorced. My mother packed her three kids into an old Chevy station wagon and drove us from St. Louis to Riverside, California, looking for a fresh start. She had visited there when she was an Army nurse stationed in LA during the war and fell in love with the place. That cross-country car trip, full of cheap diners, cheap hotels, and desperation, changed my life. I fell in love with the vastness and beauty, the glamor and tawdriness, of America. I’ve travelled all over the country since then, on that ancient and deeply American quest, the search for home.” (web)

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