The Aladdin Hotel, Woodbourne, NY

By ERICA EHRENBERG

The swimming pool is empty—another one is full but cracked and there are leaves floating in it. I’m sitting with my grandfather. He’s blind and our point of contact is a limit bolts of recognition pass through.

He saw me once in a pool under the water so he sees this in his mind often when he’s near me. He tells me about swimming across a river. Where is this river? I see branches with blue-black berries on them sinking into the water, each berry so loaded with his memory and my imagination they burst with their own reality.

The crumbling hotel has wings with tiered windows radiating into the heat. It has a grip on the hours. Every bone in my body wants to leave this place, but I’m also transfixed by the small white bowls of food and the silver carts pushed over the carpets.

I’m hungry. I learn the pull of what’s available, the pleasure of cake flattened under saran wrap, boiled things, things that jiggle where they sit.

From my grandfather’s wedding to his second wife there is a picture of me where I’m a streak above a table—you can see only the top of my head.

Alone in the afternoon, he thought of me amidst his memories of white fields and wooden houses dotting the countryside and small books with thin almost transparent pages and trees taller than the air.

Thoughts come through like the moisture of rain through a screen. In his sleep he speaks to my grandmother who is not alive—a sound coming over the sea, as close as the water inside my ear.

Erica Ehrenberg graduated from Amherst College and holds an MFA in creative writing from NYU. Her poems have been published in a variety of publications, including The Paris Review, Slate, The New Republic, and Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets. She has been a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University.

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The Aladdin Hotel, Woodbourne, NY

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