The William Carlos Williams Motel Sonnet
by Luke Davies
The blue becomes you, mate; the day
becomes your sensibility.
(The motel room in Santa Fe
imagines the immense green sea –
and worse the knotty crodile
that lies and blinks upon the Nile
is resurrected in my head.)
The vase of flowers by my bed.
The light seeps in at dawn; the blue
pervades like shaded maganese.
My thoughts collapse before the hue
shed light upon your bare blue knees.
The ruffled sheet, the sun, your head.
The vase of flowers by the bed.
I am always intrigued by the mystery of why a poet intentionally connects his own work to another poet’s work. The lines, “and worse the knotty crodile/that lies and blinks upon the Nile” are taken from R. L. Stevenson’s poem Travel in A Child’s Garden of Verse. Davies is an Australian, and if some part of his poem originated from a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, then it makes sense as a traveler he may have drawn upon Stevenson’s imaginative verse for inspiration. That Davies choose that line specifically adds a sense of childhood awe to the imagery he creates.
As a child growing up I was fortunate to have parents that took us on long car camp trips. One of the epic trips was a three-week excursion when I was six years old that took us from Minnesota to Oregon, to San Francisco, to Los Angeles, to Arizona, to Durango, Colorado and then back to Minnesota. Along the way we stopped at every National Park, or at least it seemed that way, often pitching our green canvas Coleman tent for the night.
The visit to the Grand Canyon on that trip remains the one and only time I have been there. But believe it or not that was not the highlight for me of the National Parks in Arizona. The little known Petrified Forest was to a little boy who still loves to find agates, the most mind-blowing side excursion of that trip. The petrified forest has these amazing specimens of literally entire tree trunks that over time were replaced by a kaleidoscope of minerals, turning them into literally semi precious gigantic stones that whether natural or polished were astonishing. As an adult, I have found a few small pieces of petrified wood in various places in the west, but nothing as colorful or spectacular as what was on display at the National Park.
How do we retain our sense of awe in travel that so filled our imagination when we were young? I think the key is to always take the side trip, slow down and pick up a rock or two. You never know what you might find.
By Robert Louis Stevenson