Monday, February 22, 2010

Magpie Tales

Here we are for Magpie Tales, a new meme in which we write a story or poem based on a photo posted by Willow at the 'Tales blog. I might be a bit early with this, but the Poetry Bus is leaving today too, and this is the one that's ready already.

How curiously old-fashioned.
Not only were they matches, they were wooden matches.
Not only did they have the name of the hotel proudly on the box, they were free.
Who uses matches anymore in this world of non-smokers, this world of nifty lighters?
How curious.

And yet, they are of a piece with Slovakia, even to their somber black heads.
They extend the continuum of this has-been hotel, trying to keep a foot out of the grave.
They place us in a 1970’s movie, along with the carefully preserved linoleum in the bathroom and the clean polyester bedspread.

Striking crAck!
That unique sulfurous odor mixed with woodiness.
The flame leaping up, illuminating your face for a long second, before dying back down, nearly going out, then living again more modestly.
A trail of smoke lazily disperses. I watch your eyes watching it.

There’s something about striking an old wooden match.
And about traveling to old, second-order cities.
Something to landing in a second-order hotel and having a drink in the bar and a room on the third floor overlooking the grey courtyard. Rooms on the square are 10 euros more.

We’re traveling backward in time, going east.
People are smoking in the lobby,
They have smoked here in our room, reminding us with the lingering odor that we are not the first to take this room, for a night or a week or a lifetime, not the first to look out the grimy windows onto the sunless grey courtyard.
They have generously left us matches, that we may carry on the tradition.


Niamh B said...

Nice NanU - you could even claim you had matches in your pocket, thus ticking both boxes!!

NanU said...

Ah, but I have other plans for Whats in her Pocketses. And I just noticed that 6pm EST Monday to 6am EST is actually Tuesday for me. So next time I'll take the bus first.

Ronda Laveen said...

Wonderful, NanU. Simply wonderful. I felt like I was right there in that 70s movie.

Titus said...

Really enjoyed this NanU, and I love the way the sound and smells transport you, especially in that third paragraph. The sense of continuity is made palpable and yet a sense of otherness remains.

steven said...

nanu - a rich remembering of the days when smoking was commonplace and matches like these would have lit a pipe, a cigar, possibly a cigarette.nowadays - a candle. well-written. steven

Argent said...

I liked the very last line - that we might carry on the tradition. The images in the preceding verses were spot-on!

Peter Goulding said...

Clever to focus on the smell of the burnt matches. Describes the scene much better than mere physical descriptions.

Catalyst said...

Merci. That's the limit of my French, I'm afraid. Very nice story.

rel said...

old days
old ways
new poems
to paint the picture.'nice!

Brian Miller said...

there is nothing quite like the stirke of a wooden match...enjoyed your tale. well told.


Enjoyable read, great visualizations.

willow said...

...linoleum in the bathroom and the clean polyester bedspread

Enjoyed all your sights, scents and sounds. Nicely done.

Vicki Lane said...

Love the image of going backward in time as you travel east!

The Muse said...


your piece evokes participation from all the senses...involving heart body and mind!

amy said...

You had me from the first line ...thanks for the inspiration!