John Mateer - THE HOTEL

Ahead of him, ascending the wooden stairs,
showing him the hotel, his room, ironically
remarking, in her secretive accent, slowly,
that for some reason she can’t understand
why tourists like Oporto. In her maid’s uniform
she is Fancy. He knew the hotel already
from his Melbourne dream, that sad night
when, envisioning himself arriving back in Portugal
by ship, disembarking to enter a rainy promise,
he’d fallen asleep listening to Madredeus:
O Teresa Salgueiro! Sweet Angel of Fado!
She, the maid, was the woman he might have loved
were the world not cynical, his dissociation
cliché. Her skirt shimmied up the back of her knees.
No music that night, only, in the next room,
coquettish and noisily kissing, an American tourist
with a local man she’d met earlier in the evening.
The poet had to admit that he wasn’t Ricardo Reis,
hadn’t returned from Brazil, wasn’t worth a novel,
and knew: Loneliness is only one’s own absence.