Irene Latham hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Live Your Poem.
|The Atheneum Hotel, Chautauqua, NY. Photo by Teresa Mitchell.|
I arrived at Chautauqua 2007, the Highlights workshop, and checked into room 204 of the Athenaeum annex. My roommate had not yet arrived, so I unpacked, went down to the lobby for a soda. I had not yet worked out the logistics of the hotel, so I was unaware of the blunder I was about to commit in returning to my room.
I crossed the bridge into the annex, walked to the end of the hall and opened the door to what I thought was my room. There, propped up on the bed, was an attractive older woman in a state of comfortable disrobement. I couldn’t decide whether I had fallen out of the back of a wardrobe into a strange new land or opened a door into the Twilight Zone.
I jerked to a stop, managed to keep the soda can in my hand, and said, “You’re here.”
“Yes,” she said, without dislodging herself from the pillow.
She didn’t look like the picture I had conjured in my mind of my roommate. We had only exchanged a few e-mails, but I expected someone closer to my own middle age.
“I’m Doraine. I’m your roommate,” I said.
She looked at me a bit strangely and sat forward. “You are?”
During this short exchange, my eyes scanned the room. Clothes hung in the closet. A sweater draped across the back of the desk chair. Bottles, brush and comb stood in neat rows on the dresser. I had only been gone ten minutes. How could she possibly have done this so quickly? Unless...
“Am I in the wrong room? Oh dear, I’m so sorry. Is this room 204? I am so sorry, I don’t know how I did this.”
A ridiculous mixture of horror and silly giggles brewed inside. I backed out the door and registered the 304 written in brass. I raced down the stairs hoping to get out of earshot before the elixir in my gut burst forth like a shaken soda. I shut myself into room 204, rocked my head in my hands, and tried, between fits of laughter, to convince myself that I hadn’t done something so utterly stupid. Only I had done it. And I just had to tell somebody. The problem was that I didn’t know anybody.
I readied myself for dinner, the secret hysteria growing. If I didn’t tell someone, I would bust.
On the porch of the Athenaeum, I found my only two acquaintances. We had ridden in the back of the limousine together from the airport. I poured out my adventure, relishing the relief from the pressure within, and we laughed together like ten-year olds.
Unburdened, and with new friends in tow, I relaxed and enjoyed my first meal. Kent Brown welcomed us and introduced the faculty and staff. There was one last introduction toward the end of his speech-making, a special introduction of a dear friend and icon in children’s publishing, Bea Cullinan. Bea had been a part of the first Chautauqua conference, along with Kent’s mother.
“Stand up, Bea,” Kent said.
Bea stood up.
I nearly dropped my desert fork. There, fully dressed and beautiful, was the occupant of room 304.
I can only imagine what Bea must have felt like on the other side of my adventure. She was gracious when I introduced myself as her intruder and apologized. She even agreed to look at some of my poems. The conference was, of course, life-changing, but the memory of walking in on Bea Cullinan still starts a silly giggle brewing inside my chest.
I leave you with this lovely translation from Danish poet, Inger Christensen's Light.
from Light: “It’s very strange”
by Inger Christensen
Translated by Susanna Nied
It's very strange
the eggs are everywhere
There must be some mistake
Read the rest here.