Never quite empty and never quite full,
The motel car park ebbs and flows
With vehicles that suddenly all look the same.
Nondescript travellers emerge from them,
A little stiffly, a little awkwardly,
To extract from the depths of car boots and back seats
Identical laptops and overnight bags
And to rub their necks with the same quiet ruefulness.
Patting their clothes into presentability,
They present themselves at Reception –
“Credit card, non-smoker, breakfast” –
Before pushing open doors
To rooms that are full of no surprises:
The absent minibar,
The glossy magazine with an unknown title,
The shower-cap that will not be used.
The travellers have been granted
A few hours in a location
That appears to have no geographic name,
One where everyone has a place at the buffet
And everyone gets a wake-up call in the morning.
Here to make deals,
Here to be on the way to somewhere else,
Here to be anywhere other than where they come from,
The entrepreneurs and interviewees and illicit lovers
Get everything they need for a few brief hours –
The kettle, the hot shower, the remote control, the bed.
When, in the morning, they manage to relocate their cars
In the car park where all the parked cars
Look like all the other parked cars
Because they all are parked in the same car park,
They will have more time than they wish alone on the road
In which to reflect on the difference
Between what they have and what they need,
And whether last night’s glass
Of actually rather indifferent wine
Was actually half full
Or actually half empty.
By Jonathan Steffen
First published in Acumen 77, September 2013
Photo: ©Jo Wilson