I couldn’t decide whether to choose Nights in the Iron Hotel or Body Heat today, so I’ll mention both.
Nights in the Iron Hotel, also the title of MH’s first collection, is set in a Prague hotel room. A couple confess infidelity and talk all night about separating. They are self-aware to the point of obsession, but there’s a cold distance about it all, despite the wall decorations which produce a darkly comical “Palm Beach effect”. The chill is mirrored in the room’s setting and in the name, ‘Iron Hotel’. The narrator pushes beds together which had been “at a hospital distance”, although the act doesn’t exactly bring the couple closer together. It’s an eerie poem written in a plain style, discomforting and effective. The poem is equally bleak and funny, if that doesn’t sound like one juxtaposition too far. The most haunting image comes right at the end:
The TV stays switched on all the time.
Dizzying socialist realism for the drunks.
A gymnast swings like a hooked fish.
Body Heat involves two people waking up in bed together – in a scene of poverty and bottled-up anger. There are some great images, but what’s most interesting is the return to the hedgehog/leaves image of the first poem, White Noise. In that poem, the loner in his room is swept into a corner, “delirious, trembling/ a pile of leaves.” In this one:
The poor hedgehogs,
they must help each other to pull off the leaves
that covered them while they were hibernating.
The image contains a crumb or two of hope – the fact that they can help each other – but the very comparison to hedgehogs also suggests genuine desperation.