Hotel Letters

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In the Estonian film in which I star

as myself but prettier, or Jean Genet

when he was young in the one

black and white photograph

I have seen of him. And a room

with cameras and photographs,

piles of film and white tubes

and jars of matte, bright pink

and mint-green Golden paint.

Honesty, Sabine said,

is the antidote for shame. She is

beautiful in her oversized pale pink

sunglasses and cropped blonde hair, a bit

of Marianne Faithfull, circa 1974, mixed in.

Berlin is strange in that it exists

only in black and white. And photographs.

The trees billow like in the deep

South, but larger and more delicate,

stranger. In the prison, Genet felt more

at home, and safer. Containment

does that. I don’t like him, but his calmness

masters me, he wrote. I love him

and his desire; his resistance

to self improvement, aspiration.

He stayed what he was: orphan,

thief, hustler—and of this, he made

an intricate world, a semblance.

When I was in the hospital,

the other girls and I

changed—we became

deviant, aberrant. We morphed,

or warped. And I never

changed back.

Cynthia Cruz is the author of four collections of poems including, most recently, How the End Begins, as well as essays and art reviews. She is a PhD candidate in German Language and Literature and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

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